Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White

whiteI finished this a week ago and was so filled with thoughts about it, that I hope I still have them. Where to begin? Well, first I think Ellen Emerson White is a fantastic author. And before I get into this book, and its predecessors, let me put in a plug for The Long Road Home. It’s a great big fat thick satisfying novel that I always liked because it was clearly for older teens/younger adults, as it is about a young woman returning from a Vietnam tour of duty (as a nurse.) She finds that the U.S. is not that kind to her, she suffers from post traumatic stress, and she has grown up in ways that the other young women she went to school with have not.  A very rich good novel. And, now that I think about it, it certainly shares some similarities with Long May She Reign.

So, when I was a kid I read a book that I loved called The PResident’s Daughter. I loved it because it was so behind-the-scenesy and I’ve always liked that sort of thing and am fascinated by what it would be like to live in the White House. So when that book came out I was thrilled. In fact my mom and brother read it, too.  The other thing that I was quite taken with was how witty and funny the main character, Meg, is, as well as the rest of her family.  I read the second and third books, as well, and the third book took quite a dark turn-as Meg is kidnapped and tortured.  It was pretty intense.  That came out a pretty long time ago (why can’t I find the copyright on amazon??), so it was a total surprise when this new book came out like 15 years later. And, as you can see, I gave the book quite a buildup. It definitely did not disappoint.

In a nutshell: Meg and her family try to cope with the effects of the kidnapping (disability, post traumatic stress syndrome, fractured familiar relationships, etc.) and Meg goes to college.  Meg’s college experience is, on the one hand, very typical of college and would be great for a high school student to read.  I, of course, was more into the secret service stuff.  Anyway, my heart was breaking for Meg and then something dreadful happened. I started to feel annoyed with her. She was so stubborn, so stoic, that eventually I felt not at all sorry for her when her injuries worsened.  Why wasn’t she getting psychiatric counseling? I meank, enough is enough. Get this girl some help and make her accept it. I suppose that is part of the story, though-her mom, as President of the U.S., is really not stepping up to bat as mom should.  Also, we all know that when you read a novel you bring your own experiences to it. So, I completely stopped having sympathy for her when I realized that despite being crippled, tormented by nightmares and flashbacks, and burdened with guilt, Meg still managed to score a sexy boyfriend her freshman year, is so incredibly smart she effortlessly gets As and wows her professors. And forget gaining the freshman 15-she basically becomes anorexic from depression and pain. Oh, I also wondered how I so loved this character when I first met her because she was an incredible athlete and that’s what a lot of her depression is also about-now that she can’t be an athlete what can she do.  Yeah, I cannot relate in any way shape or form to that.

Even though I ultimately was bugged by Meg it was still a wonderful, rich novel and I encourage everyone to read White’s books!

7 thoughts on “Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White

  1. I had a very similar reaction as you to the first three books in the series. Meg’s voice in the first two books blew me away, and the third book was SO intense that I was bothered yet I could not stop thinking about it.

    I don’t think as highly of the 4th book as you do. I also felt frustrated that basically Meg was not letting anyone help her and/or not getting the help she needed. First, I thought it didn’t move the story forward very far — we got only one semester (I think?), and it dragged…. I think the book could have used more editing to take out a couple dozen of the meals Meg didn’t eat.

    More importantly, though, I didn’t think of the boyfriend as sexy. I think he was an asshole (excuse the language). A relationship is often at its best at the beginning. If a guy has been a jerk 3 out of the 5 times you’ve seen him (I’m generalizing), you don’t owe him all your emotional effort, whereas in, say, a marriage you WOULD owe such effort. I also hated that Beth implied if Meg didn’t put up with the jerk, it was ONLY because she wasn’t “letting people in.”

    Oh, and I was very angry about the R.A. situation. Meg, and the people around her, all thought Meg was selfish and thoughtless because she didn’t know her R.A. had been through a horrific experience, after which she CHANGED HER NAME. How the heck was Meg supposed to know this, and why is everyone mad at Meg when the R.A. took on the assignment of having the President’s daughter on her floor with full knowledge that the media would be all over it, all the time?

    I’m still glad I read it. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for. And I wish Meg and Stephen and Neal would stay away from politics — another royal political family in the making? There ARE other life choices!

    Sorry if I seem a little vehement…. 😉

  2. I’m so glad to read your comment! And I have to say that reading it made me realize that I may have praised the book too much because I really agree with a lot you said. The whole thing about Susan having the past history? There seemed to be a lot misplaced blame and anger going on in that situation. How on earth could Meg have known? And yes, Jack was an asshole in the beginning. And this book did not have the same pacing as the others-you’re right that it could have been edited down a bit. One thing I thought was interesting was the psychological effects of her relationship with her captor.
    Thanks so much for talking about this book with me!

  3. Oh, my pleasure to talk about books! I agree with you about the pyschological effects of her relationship with her captor — which was extremely well done in book 3.

    Have you read the Janet Tashjian “Larry” books? The first is “The Gospel According to Larry” and it’s a sort of anti-consumerism activism thing, with a young man who has a blog that attracts a cult following. I really liked it, but I LOVED the follow-up “Vote for Larry”, in which Larry runs for President. It’s a bit fantastic due to the minimum age requirement, which the book does address although not believably, but it’s a minor thing in a very thoughtful book.

    A third book just came out, which I’ve just ordered from the library….

    Anyhow, yes, the Meg books clearly spoke to a lot of young women who read them, and who have followed them all this time. I understand the first two have even been reissued with cultural “updates” to bring them to a new generation of readers.

  4. I loved the Larry books and didn’t know there is a third coming out! I’ll have to make sure I get it. Did you read Cory Doctorow’s book, Little Brother? I bet that and Vote for Larry would be great books to read in a classroom and discuss, or just share in a book group.

  5. Oddly enough, I started Little Brother and couldn’t finish it. I appreciate what he was doing, but I felt a bit clunked over the head with it. I think it’s probably a fabulous book for teens who haven’t yet fallen in love with Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, though, and would make for great discussion.

    I think the third one is called “Larry and the Meaning of Life” or something like that. I’m really suprised “Vote for Larry” didn’t get more attention during the 2004 election, which is when I read it.

  6. I agree that the Doctorow book kind of hit you over the head with its message. I hadn’t thoug about what that would be like as reading experience for people not yet familiar with Orwell classics. I’m putting the new Larry on my list for sure!

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