Ruffles and Flourishes:
The Warm and Tender Story of a Simple Girl Who Found Adventure in the White House

by Liz Carpenter

Pocket Books, 1970. ISBN 089096548X.
Reviewed by Susan Wittig Albert
Posted on 12/14/2003

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Active Life

This is Liz Carpenter's first memoir, a witty and intimate chronicle of life behind-the-scenes in the West Wing in the days when Liz was press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson. From the first phrase—"I was sitting at my desk in the White House, minding everybody's business and thoroughly enjoying it"—to the "Notice to Congress" at the end, you'll find something to smile about or be moved by on every page.

But Liz Carpenter didn't begin life at the White House; she started life at the Homeplace, near Salado TX, home to six generations of her family. Her memoir takes her from there to the University of Texas (where she earned her journalism degree), to her life as a journalist in Washington. Then there was marriage to a newspaperman, two children ("Well," Liz says, "it does build character!"), and life in the maelstrom of American politics. And then there were the Johnsons, through the vice-presidential years and the tragedy of the Kennedy assassination. And then the LBJ presidency, with Liz doing her best to do her job as Mrs. Johnson's press secretary. It was a tumultuous life that would have worn down the best of us (how would you like to meet the press regarding not just one but two White House weddings?). But Liz manages to hang on to her sanity and her sense of humor. Ruffles and Flourishes is not a sensational tell-all memoir, but it tells enough to bring the Washington political scene to life and to show us how it felt—how it really felt—to live through it all (with a husband and kids, to boot).

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