The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN EDITOR OF BOOKPLEASURES.COM
Although first time author Feather Schwartz Foster’s book Ladies A Conjecture of Personalities may be classified as historical fiction, we know from the beginning that we are in for some very fascinating tidbits of information, many based on conjecture others perhaps containing a sliver of truth.
Speaking across the years, Foster brings to life brief memoirs of thirty “First Ladies,” who unlike their modern successors as Jacqueline Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush, are little known to the world. However, the moderns, as First Lady Lucy Hayes has called them as differentiated from the “non-entities”, are included in commentary “and they have many comments to make.” Considerable credit is to be given to Foster in cleverly intertwining fact with fiction and ingeniously interweaving it into conversations among personalities from former and present times.
As one of many examples, readers are informed that very often little is known about some of these First Ladies, such as Margaret Smith Taylor (1849-1850). Who was this first lady, what did she look like, who was her husband, and what were her political views? Apparently, we are told that she was married to Zachary Taylor, and in the words of this first lady according to Foster, she would have spoken the following words: “nother one of those presidents nobody remembers or cares about. Good. That’s the way I like it. I din’t want him to be president; I din’t want to be First Lady; I din’t want to live in Washin’ton.”
The author’s whimsical collages of her characters are bold and effective in reconnecting the past. Her First Ladies come alive even though the truth may at times been a trifle stretched. But who cares, as the book was never intended to be a scholarly dissertation but rather, as the author states in her epilogue, “a work of fiction-pure conjecture.” It is however, based on historical fact, and Foster’s profound knowledge is attestation to her many years as a hobbyist of presidential history.
Foster definitely has the compassion and intellectual curiosity of a good writer and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.