(Review) The General’s Women by Susan Wittig Albert

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Publisher and Publication Date: Persevero Press. March 7, 2017.
Genre: Fiction, war and military.
Pages: 532.
Source: Complimentary paperback copy from Susan Wittig Albert. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Good.

The kindle copy at Amazon is $1.99.

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About the author:
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 Albert’s 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 Story Circle Book Reviews 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.
For more information, please visit Susan Wittig Albert’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

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.

My Thoughts:
The Generals’ Women is a work of fiction. When I began reading the book, I had to remind myself this is a fiction piece. As big of a historical figure as Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is easy to become wrapped up in the story believing this is a biography.
In the past, I’ve read several nonfiction books on Eisenhower as the central figure or as apart of the World War II story. The General’s Women is not a strong military story. References are made to the battles and the advancement of the war. Meetings Eisenhower attended with ambassadors, heads of state, generals and other military are mentioned.
The story’s emphasis is on the relationship Eisenhower had with his driver, Kay Summersby. Mamie Eisenhower, back at home in America is apart of the story but not a strong part. She seemed more like a secondary character. The spotlight is on Eisenhower and Kay.
I was glad, Susan Wittig Albert, documented her research on the people discussed in the book in the “Author’s Note.” Mamie Eisenhower’s granddaughter wrote a biography on  Mamie, as well as a few other sources were studied. Kay Summersby wrote a memoir and this is utilized.
Even thought Albert explains what is fictionalized in the story. I want to mention my feelings on how I feel about historical figures who are written about in a book. It is a guess as to what are people’s motives, feelings, and thoughts. Husbands and wives who have been together many years, parents who are close to their children, and best friends don’t know everything about each other. Only the individual and God know the true self behind the flesh. Maybe Eisenhower deeply loved Kay Summersby or cared for her or it was a wartime romance. During a time of war, sexual relationships between people happen. Afterwards, on reflection, that is when a person can adequately make a judgment about what happened.
The General’s Women is an interesting and entertaining story. It personalizes the military figure of Eisenhower. He is shown as the human with emotions behind the military uniform.
I have empathy for both Eisenhower and Kay. Both people spent time together during a war. They depended on one another. They had chemistry. They developed feelings. But the relationship did not last.
I have lived long enough (age 53) that I have heard several stories from people who loved a person but the relationship did not continue. They ended up marrying another person. They spent the rest of their life remembering that great love. It is sad. But this is the reality of life. There really is no happily ever after.


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