Review: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

*Originally published 2015/08/19

I really enjoyed Jennifer Chiaverini’s Mrs Lincoln’s Rival that I decided to see if there was another book was available on audio.

15808287.jpgMRS LINCOLN’S DRESSMAKER Written by Jennifer Chiaverini

Narrated by Christina Moore

2013, 368 Pages (14 Hours and 4 Minutes) (Dutton)

Genre: historical fiction, american history, politics, fashion


Rating: ★★★

Mrs. Lincoln dressmaker is Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley a freed slave with her own dress shop frequented by all the women in Washington high society. When Abraham Lincoln becomes President his wife Mary looks to Lizzie to dress her for every event. Mary is a nervous woman afraid that everyone is looking down on her and is easily agitated. Lizzie soon discovers more about the First Lady and become her confidant. In fact, Mary greatly relies on Lizzie.

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Image: Pinterest

First half of the novel is Lizzie getting to know Mary and is living a good life. When the President is assassinated Mary is left alone and becomes more unstable. Mary now has less pull and even less wealth but has not come to terms with it. Once her debts get out of control she asks Lizzie to help sell the dresses Lizzie made for her.

Mary’s debts and instability brings Lizzie down as well. She leaves her shop to help Mary and loses revenue and clients. Her association with the former First Lady also brings her down socially. Lizzie seems to be Mary’s maid more than a friend that she says she is. When Lizzie is pushed into writing a memoir she thinks this may restore her and Mary’s reputation instead this breaks their friendship and Mary spirals down mentally.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley does in fact write a memoir and this seems to be the basis of this novel. Again Chiaverini gives a lot of information and some of it is not useful to the story. Rather it seems like a random trivia bit. I did not like this novel as much as Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival. Mary and Lizzie were not overly likeable but also seemed to lack the engaging characteristics.  I did enjoy the audiobook format for Chiaverini’s novels.  I feel like I take in more of the facts than I would reading it (as I totally would have skimmed…okay skipped).

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