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Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan    by Peter Schifando & Jonathan Joseph order for
Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan
by Peter Schifando
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

For most of us, the White House will always remain an elusive, transcendental symbol to be admired from afar. Indeed, the impression we have of the inside of the White House comes from movies, fictional TV shows and, if we're lucky, guided tours. In Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan, Schifando and Joseph throw the inner doors wide open and give us a glimpse into a world of luxury that until now has remained shrouded in elegant mystery.

During her eight years as First Lady, Nancy Reagan hosted 'hundreds of dinners, luncheons and gatherings.' As such, she's wonderfully qualified to give us an exclusive tour of what goes on during a private gathering, a classy luncheon or even a state dinner. Schifando and Joseph are interior designers and personal friends of Mrs. Reagan's. Their knowledge of the White House blends well with their expertise on all things stylish to bring to life these opulent and luxurious gatherings.

As the authors tell us in the Introduction, 'a large box of photographs ... sparked the idea for this book. In it, neatly arranged by event, were menus, invitations, schedules and copies of official White House photographs ... The photographs were records of table arrangements, flower displays, desert presentations, Christmas decorations and holiday preparations.'

With such a wealth of reference material to draw on, it's no wonder that the book is as beautifully illustrated as it is informative. The full-color photographs range from close-ups of flower and dessert arrangements to hand-written invitations and portraits of previous presidents. Interestingly, the authors chose to not only focus on President Reagan's time in office, but also to include a wealth of information on the White House's history, starting in 1801 with President John Adams and taking a trip down memory lane to explain the particular likes and dislikes of other Presidents and First Ladies.

When you pick up Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan, don't expect practical tips on entertaining. It's not that kind of book. However, if you're lucky enough to be invited to attend a White House event, you may want to pay particular attention to Chapter Two: Etiquette and Protocol. That way you'll know not to ask for more food, to pay equal attention to the guest seated on your right and your left, and to take your leave shortly after the guests of honor.

This beautiful hardcover book contains a wealth of history revolving around a rich American tradition. It will surely find a home on your coffee table, ready to inspire you to bring a little of that lush, fantastic tradition to your own soirées.

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