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review 2020-06-22 17:35
A fresh take on a familiar life
Rodham: A Novel - Curtis Sittenfeld

What is the value in alternate history? For most writers, alternate history provides an opportunity to play “what if?” games with the past, to imagine how much different the world would be had events turned out differently. For others, it serves as a sort of literary funhouse mirror that can be used to comment on the world in which we live, in subtle or sometimes not-so-subtle ways. In the hands of a very few authors, however, alternate history can become an acute form of character study, one that can use changes in circumstance as a means to considering questions of who we are as people and the ways in which our lives are shaped by the choices we make.

 

Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel is an example of the latter category. In it she offers a fictionalized account of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life, one that is altered from the one we know by her decision to break off her relationship with her soon-to-be husband Bill just after his failed election to Congress in 1974. No longer tied to his fate, Hillary Rodham goes on to forge an independent life of her own as a law school professor, activist, and United States Senator. These changes are chronicled in a narrative centered around three key periods of Rodham’s life: her time with Clinton at Yale and in Arkansas, the point when her political career begins while that of her former lover’s ends, and her climactic bid for the presidency. In each of them, events unfold involving a mix of historical, fictionalized, and fictional characters, with Hillary Rodham at the center of them.

 

In most works of alternate history, the focus of such a story would be on how a change in one moment transformed the subsequent course of history. In Sittenfeld’s hands, though, her premise becomes a means of providing a new look at a long-known personality. So many of the controversial associations are stripped away: gone is Whitewater, the Rose law firm, the health care plan of her husband’s presidency, and everything that follows. What’s left is the author’s assessment of who Hillary Rodham is as a person and the choices that person might have made free from a decision so pivotal to the arc of her life. Some of what happens is familiar, much of it is not, but all of it is true to that conception. In this respect Sittenfeld manages something extremely difficult to achieve: a fresh take on an ostensibly familiar figure.

 

Yet this novel isn’t just a reexamination of the Hillary Rodham we think we know. As Bill Clinton once declared, we get two for the price of one, as we see how her decision impacts his fate as well. In the first part of Sittenfeld’s novel, we see Clinton at his most charming, affable, flirtatious, and stimulating. Not only does it define his character, but it helps us to understand what Rodham saw in him as well, as well as why she agreed to become Hillary Clinton. Absent that choice, Bill Clinton’s life undergoes a different trajectory as well, one that illustrates the role she played in his success. Without Hillary, certain aspects of Bill Clinton’s character emerge in ways that define his life very differently from the history people remember, which then goes on to have its own impact on the events described in the novel.

 

Nevertheless, while Sittenfeld’s commentary on Bill Clinton is oftentimes sharp, her focus never wavers from her protagonist. The result is a novel that gives its readers a discerning meditation of one of the most important figures of modern times, one conveyed through the story of a life that she very well could have lived. In the process, Sittenfeld demonstrates one of the underutilized possibilities of a genre better known for using counterfactuals to consider different outcomes of major events than to better understand controversial personages. I doubt that others will follow her example, though, as her achievement in writing an alternate history novel that is both a perceptive character study and an entertaining work of fiction will be extremely difficult for others to emulate.

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review 2018-09-07 23:11
Who runs the world?
Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World - Palmieri, Jennifer

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri is an empowering voice for women. It's written as a letter to the future female President of the United States (if you couldn't figure that out from the title). To give some background, Palmieri served as the White House Director of Communications under President Obama and then afterwards as the Director of Communications for the Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Therefore, the reader will not be surprised that a large chunk of this book is devoted to behind the scenes of that campaign and its aftermath on herself and the country (from her point-of-view). From this standpoint alone, the book is interesting as we are seeing an event through the eyes of someone who actually experienced it from the inside. The overarching purpose of this book is to give advice and encouragement to women in any and every type of environment. Palmieri seeks to embolden women to allow for vulnerability and use the strengths that have historically been seen as weaknesses to launch yourself to the top. She emphasizes the importance of sticking up for yourself so that your voice is heard especially when yours is the only female voice in the room. (Did I mention this is quite a pro-female book? It is and I love that.) Remember: We cannot play by the same rules as men and we shouldn't have to. Personally, despite its shortness I think this is a necessary book for all peoples to read regardless of gender (but ladies ya'll should really try to seek this one out). I especially liked the book recommendations scattered throughout. :-D A solid 8/10 for me.

 

What's Up Next: Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me by Condoleezza Rice

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #2: Mere Mortals by David Mack

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2018-04-29 21:20
I will not buy your fucking book*
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership - James Comey
Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History - Katy Tur
Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling - Matthew Chozick
Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doom... Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign - Jonathan Allen,Amie Parnes

* with apologies to Josh Olson

 

To make money, and piles of it, off the mess you helped to create and which is hurting millions upon millions upon millions of people, is like killing your parents and then claiming mercy because you're an orphan.

 

 

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review 2018-04-18 18:23
What Happened -- too many facts, not enough Hillary
What Happened - Hillary Rodham Clinton

I bought this a while ago. I was a Clinton supporter. (I have always loved Bernie Sanders and voted for him in the primary, but by the time it got to my state, it didn't matter, and I happily took time off to campaign for Hillary once that was settled.) I strongly believe she got short shrift in the election coverage, and I was too upset until recently to be able to read this. (I actually think my diving into fiction may be a direct result of the 2016 election. I find I am too angry to be functional if I read too much news or even too much political fiction/nonfiction.)

 

While I agree in large part with most of her points about "what happened," I didn't learn much new from this book. I was very touched by her clear adoration for her daughter and her grandchildren, and it is clear that the loss of her mother is still very painful. Some of those chapters are wonderful. I could have lived without an exact play-by-play explainer on every issue on the election. I lived through it and experienced it once. I wanted to know how she felt about these things. The cover promises she's going to tell us, but I didn't get any real insight to Hillary Clinton. Thought she didn't say it this way, I also enjoyed how clearly pissed off she is at Comey - still. Also that she was confused by his actions like the rest of us were. I would say 70% of the book is defensive crouch. I get it, but it may just have been too soon for me even now. I never will need to read an in depth explainer on the emails though -- I doubt anyone reading this book will. Those who read Hillary's book are likely to have understood the email situation LONG before the election and frankly, long before the NYTimes stopped harping about them. (Guess what - reading the apologies and "we'll do better" from the Times didn't make me feel better either - particularly since they've now done away with the Public Editor who was the one clear-headed person at the paper...)

 

I moved to this book because I found my blood boiling at Susan Bordo's feminist coverage in The Destruction of Hillary Clinton (though I will make myself read that because I really want to) and decided to put that one down in favor of reading the candidate's take. I've liked Clinton's earlier books, and like many women I've admired liked Hillary Clinton for years. I respect her, but this book was uneven. Clearly she was very hurt and angry, like the rest of us. When she's down, Hillary argues her case. It's just that I've heard that case before, and I hoped for a more personal look in this book, like promised. I wonder if anyone could write a clear-eyed book about this election, but Hillary and I can't.

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text 2017-12-04 05:37
At the Halfway Point
What Happened - Hillary Rodham Clinton

 

 

She's keeping it real.  Hillary calls herself out many times in situations where she thinks she lost the race for the presidency, as well as people that she feels cost her votes.    Interestingly, I'm currently on the part where she goes after Matt Lauer (Matt is everywhere on the news currently being fired and all) during one of the debates where he kept on about the emails even though she had been cleared, never able to debate more IMPORTANT issues  I agree. I like that she shows her emotions while narrating, the parts she discusses her emotions in losing the race are touching in it's realness.  She's mad and bitter but also humble and grateful. and her narration conveys it.

 

A little over halfway and enjoying it.

 

 

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