Queer book review! All reviews touch on genre/pot, tropes (if any), and quality of gay content, and include both spoiler and spoiler-lite versions. Catch up on my last book review of Killing Eve: No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings.
Eleanor and Hick is the somewhat-unknown historical story of previous first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and her relationship with a woman. That’s right my friends, our progressive human rights leader was queer. The book recounts the lives of both women and their ties to each other through Eleanor’s memoirs, Hick’s writings, and most importantly, the letters they sent each other over the span of decades. If you love learning, this book will give you a lot of information about Eleanor beyond just her unconventional relationships, but also a look into her values, her progressive actions as First Lady and beyond, and her marriage with FDR. The book also delves into many historical eras for America—the Great Depression, WWII, and the post-war era.
As the book discusses, Eleanor often found herself in the company of queer women before and during FDR’s election. While her relationship with Hick forms the base of the book, their bond flamed and fizzled throughout their lives, sometimes one-sided and sometimes strained under the duties as First Lady and the microscope of America. Hick lived a much more open life and seemed to fit a butch stereotype. But with glimpses into the letters they shared, the two clearly meant a lot to each other at many points in their lives.
Since this is a historical retelling, the “gay content” is confined to what is available to us. Quinn does a great job of never leaving the reader in subtext or forcing us to guess at the meaning behind words or actions. In fact, many times she goes out of her way to point out how the side-characters of Eleanor’s past were queer women. Quinn provides a delicate balance in Eleanor and Hick’s relationship by teeming on the proof we have and what might have happened beyond the letters.
As you may have guessed, the book ends in a bit of a tragedy as both women have since died, Eleanor passing five years before Hick. The read can be a little discouraging at times because the two never found a happily ever after that we’d typically root for. They stayed lifelong friends until Eleanor’s passing, but both women could never quite make their relationship work. Even still, it was so exciting to read history in a way that felt catered to me, for the first time in my life. Not only were the decades of landmark American history retold with a queer relationship at the forefront, the book highlights contributions Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickock made to the country’s policies, putting women (queer women!) at the forefront of history.
Coming Up Next
My next book review will be for The Female Man by Joanna Russ. Have you read Eleanor and Hick? What did you think? Let me know by commenting below or finding me on Twitter!