Title: Eighteen Acres
Author: Nicolle Wallace
Release Date: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Melanie Kingston is the Chief of Staff for President Charlotte Kramer, making sure the White House runs as smoothly as possible. When Melanie hears of a political scandal, one that might derail President Kramer’s bid for reelection, Melanie must pull out all the stops in order to protect the President.
Eighteen Acres is a novel, first and foremost, about three women in the and around the White House – a female president, her chief of staff, and a journalist named Dale Smith who is aiming for the top, while also hiding a big secret of her own. Each of these women is written well, though Melanie is the most sympathetic. Charlotte is held at an arm’s length over the course of the book. While the reader learns a lot about her, they never really get to know her, and that makes sense. Melanie is arguably the primary narrator of this book, so mostly the reader sees Charlotte through her eyes.
Melanie is a great character. Strong, smart, and resourceful, she’s exactly the rock I would want to lean on in times of crisis. While Melanie can be frustratingly petty at times, holding grudges and pouting when she feels the president is listening to someone more than her, she is realistic and well-written.
I also appreciated that politics was put aside in Eighteen Acres. Though it is a book about the White House, it focuses more on the gossip and intrigue than it does President Kramer’s policies. Wallace is a political insider with extensive knowledge about the inner workings of the White House, but our political views don’t exactly align, so I went into this book with some trepidation. That being said, if I had held similar views to hers, I may have been upset that the book focused so much on the gossip and scandal-ridden nature of the White House, rather than substance.
If I had to pick one word to describe Eighteen Acres, it would be “idealistic”, and it’s both a strength and a weakness. It’s nice to see a president who doesn’t necessarily have to play politics; one who can make grand gestures and take huge leaps. It’s even better to see those actions pay off with the American public’s support. However, that’s not the way the world works, which is why the depiction rings hollow. Additionally, the characters seemed a bit naïve, especially Dale, who was strangely surprised at what happens to her career when her big secret is revealed. I was also taken aback at the cavalier way secret information was disclosed, and even moreso that a reporter was upset with a White House staff member he was dating for not discussing secret information off the record.
That being said, if you’re looking for a smart guilty pleasure read, this is a great pick. It’s a fun read, if unrealistic, and if you can just go with the book’s plot, rather than criticizing at every turn, you will likely enjoy it. Despite my issues, I will definitely be reading the sequel to Eighteen Acres called It’s Classified.