Book Review: The First Ladies by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray

“One day, you’ll be scrutinized and scorned, and the next, you’ll be celebrated and lauded. Sometimes by the very same people. You will not be able to control the narrative, but you can act according to your conscience, particularly in your personal life. And at the end of the day, that should be the only measure that matters.”

Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray, The First Ladies

Title: The First Ladies
Author: Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Published: June 27th, 2023

My Rating: ★★
Read: 10/22/2023 – 10/27/2023


I’ve unintentionally been on a Roosevelt kick this year. I’ve read a few of Marie Benedict’s books and was excited to see she (and Victoria Christopher Murray, though I have not read their previous collaboration) had a book that featured Eleanor Roosevelt. 

The book focuses on the, at the time, unusual friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune. Told in both of their POVs, we follow moments in each of their lives from the late 1920s through the early 1940s, particularly when their lives intertwine. 

Though it was difficult to read at times, I enjoyed much of Mary’s POV. Eleanor’s not so much. Reading a book written by Eleanor Roosevelt herself while I read this wasn’t the best move for me to enjoy this book as I had something immediately in mind to compare her to. Still, I don’t think I would have felt much differently. The political voice was far too modern even for the progressive views of the time. It felt like polished fanfiction (which I suppose it is when you think about these kinds of books). This overtone ultimately lost me. 

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • Interesting dual narrators.
  • I enjoyed the multi-decade timeline.
  • I didn’t know anything about Mary so I’m excited to do some further research on her.

What I didn’t like:

  • The political tone of the book was too modern.
  • Most of it felt inauthentic.
  • Strange pacing.


I’m in denial about how much I didn’t enjoy the book. I was fully expecting it to be one of my favorite books of the year.

Where to buy the book:

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