The General’s Women

Written by Susan Wittig Albert
Review by Jane Hill

In May 1942, Kay Summersby, the senior woman driver, parked her olive-drab Packard in front of the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square to wait for General ‘Ike’ Eisenhower. This was the beginning of a relationship between the two that Kay later wrote of as a love affair. Ike asked Kay to go with him to North Africa as his driver and look after the dog they had bought. He suggested that Kay might like to be nearer to Dick, her fiancé, who was already serving over there. She agreed. Later photographs of Ike and Kay arrived on Ike’s wife Mamie’s breakfast table. Rumours of the affair spread, and US Army Chiefs and politicians made it clear to Eisenhower that his ambitious postwar plans for the presidency might be smashed if it continued.

This well-researched and enjoyable novel is told from three viewpoints, Kay’s, Ike’s and Mamie’s. Kay’s story is the richest and told with most sympathy, based on her two published memoirs. Mamie’s, by comparison, is a little thin. The love-story narrative clearly excludes her, and she only becomes central on Ike’s return to the US after the War. That said, Albert writes the time and the milieu attractively, and the close perspective on Eisenhower and particularly his wartime life is compelling.