“Raised on tales of her revolutionary ancestors, Frances Perkins arrives in New York City at the turn of the century, armed with her trusty parasol and an unyielding determination to make a difference…”Becoming Madam Secretary Goodreads blurb
Title: Becoming Madam Secretary
Author: Stephanie Dray
Genres: Historical Fiction, Politics
Pages: 544 (Kindle)
Publish Date: March 12th, 2024
My Rating: ★★★★¾
Read: 10/28/2023 – 11/8/2023
The fact Frances Perkins isn’t a more widely discussed historical figure is shocking to me. I’m guilty of having spent years only knowing her by name and the fact she was the first woman to be a part of a presidential cabinet. I knew nothing of her story or her works.
The book follows Frances Perkins’ life and career in politics. This largely includes her marriage to Paul Wilson, her friendship with Mary Rumsey, and her partnership with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Emotional, heartfelt, and above all inspiring, we get to follow her footsteps from New England to Washington D.C.
Though this is a work of fiction, there is a lot to be learned and, for me, has prompted further research. I particularly enjoyed reading the part of the story about Frances’ marriage to Paul and his mental health struggles. I appreciate how much care went into writing these real-life characters. It steered away from some of the more controversial topics that a lot of authors would have jumped to explore.
Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for providing a free e-ARC of the book!
Likes & Dislikes:
What I liked:
- The topics of mental health. They were frank, but also fit the time.
- Even though the book is nearly 600 pages and covers a long span of time, it never felt slow.
- Wonderful characters.
- Written respectfully.
What I didn’t like:
- The pacing was off at times, though it wasn’t a glaring issue.
- A few moments were unnecessarily confrontational to other religions.
The author’s note mentions thoughts and illusions to a more romantic relationship between Frances and Mary which hadn’t even crossed my mind until I was reading this section. I’ve been noticing these interpretations being a trend in real-life historical fiction and sometimes it’s fitting or historically proven, but in cases like this, it’s becoming a pet peeve. Some words had different definitions at one point in time than they do in modern times. As someone who has spent most of their life consuming older media, I read about two people ‘having an intimate relationship’ way back when and don’t immediately assume that to mean something physical no matter who the sentiment is about. I only voice my frustration because it’s sad to see strong, platonic relationships being lost in media nowadays. I have no opinion on what these two woman shared as this book has been my greatest exposure to either of their lives, but I’m glad the author ultimately decided not to push this theory at the suggestion of Frances Perkins’ grandson. Romance is easy to find, an intimate (not sexual) friendship is not.