The General’s Women by Susan Wittig Albert –
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, & Audio
A compelling story of love, betrayal, and ambition by New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert, The General’s Women tells the story of two women–Kay Summersby and Mamie Eisenhower—in love with the same man: General Dwight Eisenhower.
Set during the chaotic years of World War II, The General’s Women tells the story of the conflicted relationship between General Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, his Irish driver/aide, and the impact of that relationship on Mamie Eisenhower and her life in Washington during the war. Told from three alternating points of view (Kay’s, Ike’s, and Mamie’s), the novel charts the deepening of the relationship as Ike and Kay move from England (1942) to North Africa (1942-43) to England, France, and Germany before and after the Normandy landing (1944-45). At the end of the war, Ike is faced with the heart-wrenching choice between marrying Kay and a political future.
The story continues into the post-war years, as Ike (returning to Mamie) becomes Army Chief of Staff, president of Columbia University, Supreme Commander of NATO, and president of the United States. Kay, meanwhile, struggles to create a life and work of her own, writing two memoirs: the first (Eisenhower Was My Boss, 1948) about her war work with Ike; the second (Past Forgetting, 1976) about their love affair. An author’s note deals with the complicated question of the truth of Kay’s story, as it finally appears in the posthumously-published Past Forgetting.
The General’s Women, Review
Susan Wittig Albert’s books are always a pleasure to read and I had really enjoyed A Wilder Rose a few years back, which was about the writing of the Little House books. The General’s Women sounded interesting to me, since it featured the two loves of General Eisenhower and I love war time stories, which is the setting, so I dove in once I received my complimentary review copy in the mail.
Susan, of course, conducts such an enormous amount of research for her books and with this one it was obvious she endeavored no less utilizing real letters, diaries, news clippings from the characters. As readers, we learn a lot about Eisenhower, his part in World War II, and even some of the jobs of women in WWII, such as that of his love interest, fashion model Kay Summersby. She was assigned to drive General Eisenhower, but as even most scholars in the nation know, became one of his dearest confidantes about the war and not only his mistress. His wife, Maime, is back on the home front dealing with her own issues as well as his own, not to mention the gossip of Kay.
Susan pieces together the story, starting with when Kay was assigned to drive Eisenhower, and shows us the dynamic of these three. It’s not a tawdy love triangle she writes, however, but one fraught with dignity, respect for each character from history, and compassion. Sympathy for each of them grace the pages of her well-told story while giving Kay also her due from an historical perspective for all she helped Ike accomplish during the war.
Each other sub-character in this dramatic novel is intricately created and woven in as well as description and detail of time and place that immerses us as readers so we can have a full experience. Susan is known for memoirs and non-fiction as well, which lends itself to this book as the main characters are real people, but she also writes in a way that leads us through the pages enthralled in the story, far from something we might read only for information. It’s pleasurable to turn the pages, but yet we gain knowledge as we do not only about his relationship with the women in his life, but about his pursuits in WWII.
Historical fiction lovers, especially those interested in tales from WWII, should pick up this book for its dramatic intensity and realness. You’ll feel like you stepped off a plane into the time period and have a bird’s eye view. Thanks to Susan for giving us another gripping read. Highly recommended!
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Praise for The General’s Women
“The General’s Women is an engrossing and humanizing account of a love that blossomed during wartime and scandalized a nation… A historical novel that is sympathetic, satisfying, and heartbreaking.” —Foreword Reviews
“A mature, gripping emotional drama… The arc of this multifaceted novel follows the three main characters [Ike, Kay, and Mamie] and a host of secondary ones through the war and back into civilian life. At every point Albert smoothly incorporates an obviously vast amount of research into a tale of raw emotional conflict that can make for some wonderfully uncomfortable reading.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A brilliant work of biographical fiction that will fascinate WW2 history fans. It tells the remarkable true story of General Dwight D Eisenhower and his relationship with his Irish-born driver and secretary, Kay Summersby, and with his longtime wife Mamie. It faithfully shines a light on the hidden relationship of the man behind the D-Day landings and what he got up to while 3,000 miles from his wife. A must read!” —Kieron Wood, author of Ike’s Irish Lover: The Echo of A Sigh
Susan Wittig Albert, Biography
A NYT bestselling author, Susan’s books include biographical fiction (A Wilder Rose 2013, currently under film option; Loving Eleanor 2016; and The General’s Women 2017). Her mystery fiction includes the bestselling China Bayles mysteries; The Darling Dahlias; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and the Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert. Working together, the Alberts have also written over 60 young adult novels.
Susan’s most recent nonfiction work includes two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Her earlier nonfiction work includes Work of Her Own, a study of women who left their careers, and Writing From Life: Telling Your Soul’s Story, a guidebook for women memoirists. That book led to the founding of the Story Circle Network in 1997. She has edited two anthologies for the Story Circle Network: With Courage and Common Sense (2004) and What Wildness Is This: Women Write about the Southwest (2007). She currently serves as editor of StoryCircleBookReviews and co-coordinator of SCN’s Sarton Women’s Book Awards.
She and Bill live in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes, gardens, and tends a varying assortment of barnyard creatures.
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