A Former First Lady Details a Political Life

Article excerpt

NEARLY two years after she and her husband left the White House for the relative anonymity of post-presidential life in Houston, Barbara Bush remains one of the most beloved first ladies. With her halo of white hair, her maternal air, her self-deprecating humor and unpretentious style, Bush exemplifies the quintessential "good wife" and "good mother" of a certain era.

As such, her perspective on a long married lifetime in politics - a fishbowl she has endured with grace and good humor - is potentially of considerable interest to readers of "Barbara Bush: A Memoir." Written by Bush herself, the book offers a generally upbeat self-portrait, delivered without artifice.

Barbara Pierce was just 16 when she met George Bush at a Christmas dance and only 19 when she dropped out of Smith College in 1945 to marry him. After he graduated from Yale, the couple settled in west Texas, where he worked in oil fields and she cared for their growing family. Ever the devoted mother, she began honing skills as a political wife when her husband entered Texas politics.

As his career progressed - United States senator, United Nations ambassador, US envoy in China, vice president, president - she filled diaries with accounts of their lives. From her first blow-dry hairdo to bicycling in Beijing, from menus for state dinners to meetings with world leaders, she revels in details.

But simply transferring diary entries to a memoir can leave a reader longing for fewer anecdotes and more reflection. "In a life of privilege there are lots of tears," Bush writes. When she was 24, her mother was killed in an automobile accident. …