The essential Curtis Sittenfeld: A guide to the author's most important books
Acclaimed author — and EW Summer Books Special cover star — Curtis Sittenfeld has enlivened settings, from the college campus to the White House. Here, EW highlights her biggest works ahead of her latest release.
The campus novel to rule them all, Prep is like a shot of nostalgia straight to the veins. Based (loosely) on the author’s own experience at a boarding school, her debut novel centers on Lee Fiora, who is thrust into the blazer-filled world of the prestigious Ault School. It’s a delightfully fizzy tale of wealth and interpersonal coming-of-age drama in a highly picturesque New England setting.
American Wife (2008)
Before Rodham, there was American Wife, another novel about a famous first lady — only this take was far less conspicuous. Alice Blackwell, the concocted stand-in for Laura Bush, lives in the White House and reflects back on her quiet Wisconsin upbringing, a tragic accident during her teenage years, and other events. Plot-related liberties are taken, but it all bears a striking resemblance to the woman married to 43.
Twin sisters are born with psychic powers, and decades later one very publicly predicts a horrific earthquake in Sittenfeld's Sisterland. The premise sounds thriller-adjacent in theory, but in practice it’s a meditation on the fraught nature of sibling relationships and female friendships: Vi’s eccentric qualities trigger the more straitlaced Kate’s many fears about their condition.
You Think It, I'll Say It (2018)
Sittenfeld’s first short-story collection, selected for Reese Witherspoon’s book club, captures the very essence of what it was like to be alive — and woke — in 2018 America. The 10 tales in You Think It, I'll Say It feature an Ivy League student, a lawyer on honeymoon, a housewife fantasizing about a career-ending moment for an old friend, and more. Each story is suffused with themes of greed, infidelity, longing, and ambition.
This time around Sittenfeld turns her musings on to Hillary Rodham Clinton, imagining her life if she were just a Rodham. It follows Hillary's early life, her relationship with Bill, and then splits from reality when a young Hillary leaves Bill for her own life. It's wish fulfillment tangled up in a takedown of the patriarchy.
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