On a drive through the family estate in 1935, the married President, Franklin Roosevelt, starts up a romance with his cousin. The two imagine moving after he leaves office into a cottage he is planning to build on what they affectionately call 'Our Hill'. The President's secretary, who lives at the White House (and has lived with the President since he was Governor of New York), thinks her boss will be moving into the cottage with her. The President's wife, another cousin, stays in her own fieldstone cottage on the estate when she is there without her husband. At his Inauguration she wore the ring given to her by the woman with whom she is in love, the woman she will later install in a White House bedroom across from her own. The First Lady's passionate attachment to her woman friend has cooled, however, supplanted by her feelings for a radical student leader young enough to be her son. When the President's wife meets her young man at a Chicago hotel during his furlough from the Army, the Counter-Intelligence Corps bugs their adjoining rooms; video technology would have provided pictures of her stroking his forehead while he slept.
LRB 21 September 1995 | PDF Download