A work focuses on Dwight D. Eisenhower, his wartime mistress, and his wife.
This historical novel from bestselling author Albert (Death in Hyde Park, 2016, etc.), who penned the very affecting Loving Eleanor (2016) and the long-running murder mystery series starring China Bayles, centers on a subject that might at first seem unpromising ground for drama: the love life of Gen. Eisenhower. During the war, lovely and vivacious former fashion model Kate Summersby draws chauffeur duty for Eisenhower in London. The burden of commanding the war effort weighs heavily on the general’s shoulders, and he’s a long way from his loving and dutiful wife, Mamie, back in Washington, D.C. In Albert’s careful, nuanced pacing, Eisenhower and Summersby begin developing feelings for each other despite the fact that he is still corresponding faithfully with Mamie and Summersby is engaged to an American colonel. “I’ve never been in love with anyone else,” Eisenhower writes in one letter to Mamie, after his own feelings have become so compromised that he believes he should add such an uncharacteristic emphasis. After Summersby’s fiance is killed, her relationship with the general quickly escalates into stolen kisses (“For a brief hour, they were just two people in love in the midst of war, holding on to each other as the world threatened to pull them apart”) and a passionate affair. Suddenly Albert has somehow fashioned a mature, gripping emotional drama out of a set of characters most readers associate with bland postwar suburbia. Most of the dense, engrossing narrative splits between Eisenhower’s wartime theater—minor characters like Gen. George Patton are deftly realized—and Mamie’s domestic world back home. Albert is so skillful at creating historical atmosphere and realistic period dialogue that the homefront scenes are every bit as compelling as the ones taking place in the ruins of Europe. The arc of the multifaceted novel follows the three main characters and a host of secondary ones right through the war and back into civilian life, and 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. Perhaps ironically, both Eisenhowers remain stubbornly less intriguing than Summersby herself, but the difference remains marginal.
A genuinely involving example of that rarest of birds: first-rate historical fiction about Eisenhower.