WASHINGTON — When the going got tough in the White House — and when didn't it during the Clinton years? — Hillary Rodham Clinton got busy. The former first lady threw herself into her duties partly to escape all the cascading troubles, she says in her new memoirs.

In "Living History," the New York senator also talks about her determination to play a policy role in her husband's administration — and takes some responsibility for "botching" health care reform.

She acknowledges being insensitive at first to those who felt she was taking the role of first lady too far off the traditional course.

The book comes out Monday. The Associated Press got an early copy.

In it, she invokes another strong-willed first lady to describe how she got through the tribulations of her time in the White House. "Eleanor Roosevelt once said, 'If I feel depressed, I go to work,"' she writes.

If policy activism was a balm, it was also her passion, and she makes no apologies for taking on difficult issues during the eight years of her husband's presidency.

In the 562-page volume, she also offers a blistering indictment of former President Clinton's behavior with Monica Lewinsky and his lying about the affair. Even so, she says she still loved her husband and did not feel he betrayed his country.

She recounts the six "brutal" months after Inauguration Day in 1993: Her father died. White House aide and friend Vincent Foster killed himself. Her mother-in-law was dying. Critics were making hay with the missteps of a new administration.

"I did what I often do when faced with adversity," she said. "I threw myself into a schedule so hectic that there was no time for brooding."

Asked Wednesday about her book's account of the Lewinsky episode, the senator said, "I hope people will read the book. This book is about many things."

In the memoirs:

The former first lady says that after her husband finally confessed to a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, after denying it, "I didn't know whether our marriage could — or should — survive such a stinging betrayal. . . . This was the most devastating, shocking and hurtful experience of my life."

She acknowledges that "on bad days, I faulted myself for botching health care, coming on too strong and galvanizing our opponents."

She wrestles with the question of why Foster killed himself when he did not seem out of sorts. She says that as she learned more about clinical depression, "I began to understand that Vince may have appeared happy because the idea of dying gave him a sense of peace."

While joking about having imaginary conversations with Mrs. Roosevelt, she says that she would "visualize" the former first lady because that would help her analyze problems.

Of her famous description of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" dogging her and her husband, she says she might have phrased her point more artfully. But she stands by its essence, as it related to independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation. "I do believe there was, and still is, an interlocking network of groups and individuals who want to turn the clock back on many of the advances our country has made," she says, contending these interests will use all tools at their disposal to achieve their ends.

She says she never read the Starr report but considered its release — complete with sexually explicit allegations — "a low moment in American history."

She deals at length with the Whitewater investigations, which she says were politically motivated.

On her activism as first lady, she said she did not appreciate at first how deeply ambivalent the public was about seeing women in positions of leadership and power. "I was navigating uncharted terrain — and through my own inexperience, I contributed to some of the conflicting perceptions about me," she writes. "In this era of changing gender roles, I was America's Exhibit A."

Anticipating keen interest in the book, Simon & Schuster ordered a huge first printing of 1 million copies and paid the former first lady a $2.85 million advance toward the $8 million deal. The book's list price is $28.

Simon & Schuster, in a letter to the AP on Tuesday, objected to the AP's report on the book, claiming that it amounted to copyright infringement.

David Tomlin, assistant to the AP president, said: "Representatives of Simon & Schuster have been in touch with us. We disagree completely with their legal conclusions concerning our story."