Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham imagines an alternate reality where Hilary didn’t marry Bill Clinton

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Jessica Rapana
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In Rodham, author Curtis Sittenfeld explores a parallel universe in which Hilary turns down Bill, once and for all.

If you’ve ever seen Sliding Doors Gwyneth Paltrow’s classic 1998 rom-com – you’ve probably thought about the path your life could have taken.

Specifically, how your life’s trajectory can be altered by a single moment. One chance encounter. One missed train. One lie-in. One traffic jam. One choice.

Just imagine how different our lives might look, had we taken a different turn somewhere along the way. And in some cases, such seemingly minor decisions could even alter the course of history.

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What if, for instance, Hillary Clinton had never married Bill? Such is the parallel universe best-selling author Curtis Sittenfeld is exploring in Rodham, which will be published in June 2020.

According to the upcoming book’s synopsis, Sittenfeld imagines the life of a young woman full of promise, Hillary Rodham, who meets a charismatic fellow Yale Law School student, named Bill Clinton.

The two find a profound intellectual, emotional and physical connection that neither has previously experienced and, as in real life, Hillary turns down numerous marriage proposals from Bill. 

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld is out June 2020

However, rather than going on to marry Bill and later joining him in the White House as First Lady, as she did in real life, in Rodham, their paths diverge when Hillary turns him down once and for all.

Which begs the question: what would have happened if the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate had not been linked to her former president husband, who was put on trial for impeachment after his affair with a White House intern? What if Hillary had made different choices – both personal and professional – along the way? 

This is the hypothetical situation Sittenfield explores in Rodham.

“There were countless pieces analyzing Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 election, and I found myself thinking not about how she looks to all of us, but how all of us look to her,” Sittenfeld says. 

“Instead of examining her from the outside and determining what she ‘means,’ I approached this novel with the questions, ‘What is it like to be her?’”

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and former U.S. President Bill Clinton attend MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall on January 26, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NARAS)

What if Hillary hadn’t married Bill?

Marianne Velmans of Doubleday, which will publish the novel in the UK, said: “Curtis has shown a unique talent for writing fiction that throws a light on the lives of women in the political limelight. Since Curtis first told me her new novel was based on Hillary Clinton, I have been avidly and impatiently waiting for it, and now that it is here, I can confirm that it is every bit as smart, compelling, and satisfying as I ever hoped. It is a brilliant reimagining of what might have been, and truly a novel for our times”.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (£20, Doubleday) is out 30 June 2020.

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Image: Getty, Random House


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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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