An illuminating glimpse behind the scenes, though fans and detractors alike will find much room for debate.

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BILL AND HILLARY

THE POLITICS OF THE PERSONAL

A fresh look at the political rise and fortunes of the Clintons, a saga conditioned, writes Chafe (History/Duke Univ.; The Rise and Fall of the American Century, 2009, etc.), by the best and worst in their natures.

“Bill Clinton…is the first politician in history who has perfected the ability to cry in just one eye,” remarked Republican political operative and longtime foe—but now, oddly, friend—Haley Barbour, not unappreciatively. Clinton, as Chafe tells it, mastered the psychological survival skills necessary of a child of an abusive, alcoholic parent. Neglected and tormented as a child, he was also raised by a doting grandmother to be a force of destiny, literate by the age of three and a ham and class-time monopolizer by the time he was in elementary school. Clinton’s eagerness to please and be adored, oddly mirrored in the current president, played out politically in many episodes. One of the key moments in his early political career was being turned out of the governor’s office in Arkansas, which bewildered and depressed him, but which came as no surprise to anyone who shared the widespread view that he was “of an intent to impose ideas on Arkansas’s citizens whether they were ready for them or not.” Another key moment was the defeat of the omnibus health care act while Clinton was serving his first term as president; he had labored under the view that he could charm the opposition away, while Hillary rejected any suggestion of altering her carefully crafted bill. “The personal dynamic between Bill and Hillary helps explain why repeated possibilities for compromise were persistently rebuffed,” writes the author. Psychobiography is always suspect, particularly in the hands of someone who doesn’t possess a degree in psychiatry, but Chafe is careful to back up his suppositions with good evidence, and the portrait that emerges is both believable and of consummate interest to political junkies. 

An illuminating glimpse behind the scenes, though fans and detractors alike will find much room for debate.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9465-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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