I’m no longer viscerally upset about the 2016 election because I’m a pragmatist – the kind of person who tries to take stock of changed circumstances as soon as possible and adjust their strategy to start again. Of course I’m saddened on a daily basis by some of the actions of the current administration (aren’t we all, or most of us at least), but I’ve let go of the frustration over Hillary’s loss. I think she’d agree that it’s a waste of time at this point. She seems like a pragmatist too and what’s done is done.
However, there’s always room to learn from past events, and I’ve been drawn to books about the election to try to dissect the mechanics of what caused Clinton’s loss. As soon as I heard her memoir on the election was coming out in September, I knew I wanted to read it right away. I didn’t know exactly what to expect having read most of her past memoirs (book list here). They are chock-full of information and expertly written but polished and restrained, very much written by a woman with an eye to a continued future in politics. I though that in What Happened she might let loose a little more, but I was so in love with how out there she is in this memoir that I can’t even fully convey it. I felt that in What Happened, I met the Hillary Clinton we all could glimpse behind the necessary political facade – or at least those of us who cared to look accurately.
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This post came about through one of those cases in which you read a book that leads you to another title, and then another. After reading Andrew Morton’s biography of Diana this summer (Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words), I realized that as much as Diana was an interesting and polarizing figure, what I really wanted was to learn more about the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
Maybe The Crown also had a little effect on this. It’s startling to watch a TV series set in the 40s and 50s (for Season 1 at least) and realize that the protagonist is still alive today and has lived through 9 decades of history, social change and economic upheavals. My research on biographies of the queen led me to Sally Bedell Smith’s book Elizabeth: The Queen, and when Bedell Smith mentioned Alan Bennett’s novella on the queen – The Uncommon Reader – I knew that I wanted to pick that up as well.
I’m planning more similar fiction to nonfiction book pairings in the future. Hope you enjoy this first take on a new feature on the blog!
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It’s not the happiest occurrence on which to end my blogging break, but today is the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana on August 31st 1997 in Paris. The horrific crash that killed the princess and its aftermath epitomized the issues inherent in Diana’s relationship to the British crown and their treatment of her.
I remember finding out about the crash while standing in my family’s kitchen in Milan, watching a newscast. I think it was the day after the crash, possibly in the evening, and I remember feeling upset and shocked at the news despite being 12 at the time (the same age as Prince Harry). I didn’t know much about Diana beyond her marriage and then divorce to Prince Charles, and her public persona as a benefactress of many causes, including the battle against AIDS and the efforts to ban and remove land mines in areas of conflict.
A few weeks ago, I watched the HBO documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy, in which Prince William and Prince Harry speak candidly about their relationship with their mother growing up and their experience of her death and funeral. I realized I didn’t know much about the background of Diana’s life and decided to search for a good biography of the princess. Once I discovered that Andrew Morton’s take had been recently updated and was primarily based on taped interviews with the princess herself, I knew it was the right choice. I wasn’t disappointed – the book feels highly personal to the princess thanks to the inclusion of her actual words describing the circumstances of her life. Read my review below.
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We’re all struggling with the negative political news these days, and I really wanted to read Alyssa Mastromonaco’s Who Though This Was A Good Idea? as a political palate cleanser. I wanted it to transport me back to the wonderful years of the Obama White House, when things happened in an organized fashion (largely thanks to Mastromonaco herself), and the POTUS was a steadfast and comforting figure.
I loved learning more about Mastromonaco’s role both during Obama’s campaign and in the White House. As some one who is obsessed with organizing, it was pretty dreamy to hear about the work of someone who was responsible for figuring out the logistics of a jam-packed schedule like that of the President. Mastromonaco is also truly an inspiring figure for women thanks to her incredibly significant accomplishments in a male-dominated field at a very early age.
I struggled with the memoir’s structure and tone, however. It left me wishing that Mastromonaco had either employed a more experienced ghostwriter in helping her craft it, or that she had stuck to the political memoir aspect of it and dropped the self help portions. I recently found out that the book has been optioned by Mindy Kaling’s production company to be turned into a film, and I can see how Mastromonaco’s life would translate into a very compelling feature. While we wait for the screen adaptation, read my review of Mastromonaco’s memoir below.
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