I love to read and hear about how the other half live. I think this is why I am so intrigued with the British Monarchy and why Downton Abbey so thoroughly captured my interest. So when I came across the opportunity to read about life inside the White House – not the politics but the real-life stories about the people who have lived there – well, my interest was immediately piqued.
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, penned by Kate Brower Andersen, gives readers a glimpse of what life is like within the so-called people’s house. The stories come from the mouths of those who know the house the best – the staff, many of whom have worked there for an extremely long time.
Brower covered the White House for Bloomberg News, so she had a bit of a leg up when it came to access to White House personnel. But she clearly did a lot of research because the people with whom she spoke went as far back as the Kennedy years.
Historically, White House staff are very closed-mouthed about what goes on inside those four walls (well, it is actually about 55,000 square feet in size, which includes 132 rooms, 3 kitchens, and 35 bathrooms). And there are certainly no state secrets spilled in this book. The author says time and time again that the people who work at the White House are loyal and reluctant to talk about the families who reside there.
Still, the reader gets some glimpses into more of a real-life image of these people who appear to us to be bigger than life. I can’t say that I learned anything astounding, but I did get a picture of the atmosphere in the White House during each of the individual administrations.
Clearly, the winners were George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and the loser, well, I won’t give it up.
If you like Downton Abbey, you might enjoy reading about our very own Downton Abbey at 1600 Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C.