The President’s House

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

It is particularly appropriate for Margaret Truman to write about the history of the White House, as it was her father who, in 1949, ordered the most extensive renovation of the building since it was built in 1800. Harry S. Truman always had a deep interest in history as well as a keen eye for architecture, and in The President’s House: A First Daughter Shares the History and Secrets of the World’s Most Famous Home the first daughter does her father proud in this excellent chronicle of “the people’s house.”

A great deal of American history and folklore revolve around this magnificent building. Rather than tell the story in a strict chronological fashion, Truman presents revealing stories of the people who lived, worked, and visited the White House throughout its long history. Especially fascinating are accounts by servants and staff who were witnesses to history as they quietly worked behind the scenes.

One of the most interesting parts of the book talks about the White House children. As Truman well knows, growing up in the country’s most famous house was a unique experience for all presidential children. She recounts the efforts of the first families trying to give their children as normal an upbringing as possible. Truman chronicles the romances and weddings of presidential siblings as well. And a history of the White House would not be complete without mentioning the famous White House dogs such as Warren G. Harding’s Airedale, Laddie Boy, and FDR’s Scottie, Fala.

Truman also talks about the heroic job the Secret Service has done in protecting the president and his family while in the White House. She recounts the attempt on the life of her own father in 1950 as an example of the problems in keeping the president and his family safe from potential harm.

This is a delightful book—required reading for fans of American history and the U.S. presidency.