The Book Worm: Review: The Residence

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: The Residence

Book Review: The Residence, inside the private world of the White House


A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.
America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.
These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.
Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members—many speaking for the first time—with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy’s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband’s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon’s resignation and President Clinton’s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.

Genre: non-fiction

Publishing date: March 2016 (reprint edition)

Mature content: no

Review: with the US elections just a few months away, it seemed appropriate to read and review this book, especially because it was recently reprinted (though the first edition is from 2015, so not that old anyway). 

The Residence gives us insight about what happens inside the White House, how the presidential families live and work, as seen through the eyes of the White House's longest term residents: its employees, the people who go to work every day to make sure everything is up and running in the most famous house in the United States. 

What strikes me the most, after reading the book, is the sheer amount of dedication of these people. Some of them could be earning much more working somewhere else, and yet they dedicate their lives to what, for them, basically amounts to serving their country. They have pride in their jobs and while presidents come and go, they often work in the White House for long periods of time, sometimes sacrificing their own personal lives in the process.

The purpose of this book is not to air presidential secrets, so don't expect scandalous revelations.  There are tidbits here and there about the daily lives of the presidential families, but not much more than that, because one more thing the White House employees pride themselves in is keeping professional secrecy.

While there is an historical introduction on how the White House, as we know it today, came to be, the information spans over the terms of service of the last presidents, from the time JFK was in office (because that was as far as the memories of current and retired White House employees could the stretched) to president Obama.

Because The Residence is based on interviews to the White House staff, events are not always told in chronological order, and some of them are even repeated throughout the book. At first this threw me off, but then I became so engrossed in it it didn't bother me any more. It's a very well written book and while it's not an mazing page turner, I still recommend it.

Happy readings,

the book worm, book blog


  1. This really does sound fascinating! I'm glad they maintained their integrity and didn't share anything scandalous! Thanks so much for sharing this post at Booknificent Thursday on this week! Great to have you!

    1. Yes, that seems to be the rule in the house, and it makes sense, otherwise they could not be trusted to do their jobs right. I really ended up admiring the staff, even though they clearly have a difficult job sometimes. Thank you for hosting, and for stopping by!


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