Set during the chaotic years of World War II, The General's Women tells the story of the conflicted relationship between General Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, his Irish driver/aide, and the impact of that relationship on Mamie Eisenhower and her life in Washington during the war. Told from three alternating points of view (Kay's, Ike's, and Mamie's), the novel charts the deepening of the relationship as Ike and Kay move from England (1942) to North Africa (1942-43) to England, France, and Germany before and after the Normandy landing (1944-45). At the end of the war, Ike is faced with the heart-wrenching choice between marrying Kay and a political future.
The story continues into the post-war years, as Ike (returning to Mamie) becomes Army Chief of Staff, president of Columbia University, Supreme Commander of NATO, and president of the United States. Kay, meanwhile, struggles to create a life and work of her own, writing two memoirs: the first (Eisenhower Was My Boss, 1948) about her war work with Ike; the second (Past Forgetting, 1976) about their love affair. An author's note deals with the complicated question of the truth of Kay's story, as it finally appears in the posthumously-published Past Forgetting.
I wanted to read this book ever since I read that Susan Wittig Albert was writing a book about Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby. I have previously read Loving Eleanor and A Wilder Rose by the author and I love how she can write about real life people and making them come alive and I'm happy to say that she has once again managed to do that with The General's Women.
It's not only the people that she manages to portray in an authentic way, Wittig Albert has a knack for writing about the time and milieu that makes it feel like you are both learning more about the period at the same time you are enjoying the story. In The General's Women is the focus heavy on WW2 and I loved reading this book because not only did I get a vivid description of the people of the time, but I also got to follow the war from a close perspective as Kay Summersby followed Ike to North Africa.
This book is not heavy on the romance. Sure there are special moments between Ike and Key in the book, but it's not a saccharine kind of romance. I mean Key was not at all pleased when she first had to drive Ike, he was only a two-star general and Ike in return was displeased with her being late to pick him up with the car (all because she had to eat). But, then as the story progressed one could see how they started to warm up to each other. I like that Wittig Albert also included Mamie's POV, and I found it interesting to learn more about her, her devotion to Ike and her jealousy towards women in his life.
The General's Women is an engrossing book to read and I loved reading about Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby. I think the best romance stories are the ones that are real and I do have a weakness for doomed romances.