WHITE HOUSE YEARS

The long-awaited first installment of Henry's History has finally arrived and, advertising hype aside, it is an event. Beginning with the call from Richard Nixon in 1969—ironically, while Kissinger was lunching with Nelson Rockefeller—that brought him into national prominence, and ending with the signing of the Paris accords on Vietnam in 1972, this segment inevitably centers on the Vietnam War, with side-trips to Moscow and China. Much attention will be paid to the nuts and bolts of negotiations between the U.S. and North Vietnam, the beginnings of détente, the secret mission to Peking, and the Mideast maneuvers of the period, as well as to Kissinger's profiles of colleagues and of Nixon. But one of those profiles may provide a clue to this maze of words; in speaking of then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, Kissinger notes that Laird would raise a host of issues in order to camouflage the main issue on which he wanted to prevail in inter-departmental wrangling. Kissinger's appreciation of Laird's bureaucratic acumen may be reflected in the massive scale of this book, fully 1500 pages in all. But the layers of meetings, memoranda, and reflection can't hide its basic value; this is one of the great documents of today's amoral, antidemocratic political manipulation. Kissinger claims, for instance, that he originally intended to maintain the structure of the National Security Council as he found it, but that Nixon, suspicious of the Foreign Service, insisted on strengthening the NSC as his instrument. Later—in reference to presumed disagreements between him and Nixon over the Christmas bombing of Hanoi in 1971—he claims disingenuously that "a Presidential Assistant soon learns that his only strength is the President's confidence"; but the intervening 1450 pages have shown us a Kissinger who knew how to institutionalize his power, and who, in the end, outmaneuvered even Richard Nixon. Kissinger's amorality is apparent from the start, as he never questions the propriety of accepting a position with the Nixon Administration after extolling the virtues of Rockefeller; the only question was which position to go for. Later, he could claim that "Cambodia was not a moral issue." But the greatest example may be Chile, where Kissinger justifies covert actions against Allende because his election was based "only" on a plurality—and, in any event, "was a challenge to our national interest," solely on the basis of his Marxist ideology. For Kissinger, values are ideology, power is truth. Though he wrings his hands over the "poor Cambodians" and those killed in Vietnam, his commitment was to American international "credibility" and effectiveness. For those not snowed by the erudition and charm, then, this is a fundamentally important book.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 1979

ISBN: 1451636431

Page Count: 2155

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1979

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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