This is a brilliant novel, spolied as so many reviewers here point out by a lame ending. I first came across Curtis Sittenfeld as the author of 'Prep', a clever, insightful, clearly autobiographical account of a girl's education (her name is Lee) at an American prep school. 'Man of My Dreams', the short novel which followed, is a bit of a disappointment, not because it isn't good, but because it offers very little in the way of an advance on 'Prep' -- basically it is Lee Goes to College. 'American Wife' is Sittenfeld's breakthrough novel, and this is very much the step forward I was hoping for. The autobiographical note has been left behind -- the narrator of 'American Wife' (forget Laura Bush, if you can) is a person in her own right, with experiences and observations that always ring true. Even the passages describing her sex life with Charlie seem right and justifiable, despite the image of 'W' which for some readers will be forever lurking in the undergrowth. The last part of the book, however, is clearly a mistake. Describing life at the White House carries Sittenfeld only too predictably into the territory mapped out by tv shows like 'The West Wing'. It can't be done -- not well, at any rate -- and wasn't in fact necessary. Everything she wanted to say about politics and family and compromise and idealism and money and privilege in American life was there already. It is as if Jane Austen had attempted to write a sequel to P & P in which Darcy became prime minister. You'd read it, but you'd wish she hadn't done it. Read 'American Wife' for the first three-quarters, and forgive the rest. All criticisms aside, I am eagerly awaiting her next book.