Book Reviews

Book Review: Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Let me say off the bat that I like Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’ve always liked Hillary Rodham Clinton. I voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That said, I did not give rave reviews to her book, Living History.

Hillary begins at the beginning. She gives a great deal of background about her family. What her mother went through is remarkable and gives great insight to Hillary’s personality. Reading about her growing up in the 50’s and 60’s is similar to other accounts I’ve read of the time. However, I’ve read much more interesting accounts of the time period. If you are truly interested in the time period rather than the woman, I wouldn’t look for anything really interesting here.

However, I was interesting in knowing about Hillary Rodham Clinton, so I waded through the first hundred or so pages which did not grab me and draw me in the way I would have liked. Up until the time Bill Clinton’s campaign for President begins, I felt as if I had to force myself to read these parts, which is what took me so long to finish it.

Part of the problem is her tendency to name-drop. Quite often there are paragraph upon paragraphs talking about people whom I never heard of and never appeared in the book in the future. For instance, if she is talking about a group of friends in her neighborhood, she painstakingly names each of them that she hangs out with instead of just talking about a general group of people.

This carries through to the remaining four hundred pages that detail the first Presidential campaign, Bill Clinton’s Presidency, and her successful run for New York Senator. Many of the people she speaks about are important to the events which unfold, but there were many that could have been dropped. An editor with a heavier hand might have made this novel a better read, in my opinion.

That said, once Hillary moved onto the Presidential campaign and the Clinton Presidency, it became much more interesting. Hillary details the events which unfolded, including the mistakes she made with the press and others. She doesn’t shy away from events or try to gloss over them. However, what is really missing is a bit more of the personal information and insight into what was going on.

The closest she comes to actually talking about the personal side is during her brief account of the Lewinsky matter. She talks a bit about how betrayed she felt by her husband and how hard it was to live in the same house as him. However, she never goes as far as confirming (or denying) that any of the other rumored affairs took place.

This was somewhat disappointing to me because I have been struggling to forgive my husband for a betrayal he committed against me and his family (although not the same type Bill Clinton did). I wanted to know how she could manage to forgive her husband for disgracing her so publicly; I wanted to know what her thought process was in regards to whether or not she should leave him; I wanted to know when the moment was that she truly felt she could forgive him, but she offers up none of that. Instead, I learned from her that forgiveness will take time when I am ready to give it, and that forgiveness comes from grace.

Hillary talks about her deep faith and prayer a lot. This was something comforting to me as I never trust politicians who publicly wear their faith on their sleeve, and I didn’t (and don’t) get that from her in her appearances. I think we are on the same wavelength here and it was a comfort to think that my faith and prayer may result in me finding the path to the forgiveness of my husband.

The rest of the book is an elaborate narrative of her role as First Lady. It details the daily running of the White House, what role many people on her staff played and how dedicated they were, her involvement in policy matters (the President solicited her opinion, as he did that of his other advisors, but made the ultimate decision himself, sometimes disagreeing with what she recommended), as well as giving insight into the importance of a First Lady (and President) making trips abroad to allies as well as those with whom there is a sometimes tenuous relationship.

She pulls no punches in talking about Kenneth Starr and the targeting of the Clinton Administration by him and conservatives, as well as talking about the toll it took on staffers and friends who ended up with legal bills. Based on her writing, it came across that this was the biggest regret she had in the whole matter – that friends and loyal staffers ended up being put through the wringer emotionally and financially for no real reason.

For me my frustration was elevated all the more, because if you believe her accounts, there was no doubt that Kenneth Starr was on a bloodhunt and was coming up empty when Bill Clinton handed him a real scandal on a silver platter. However, she does talk about the ironies that turned up as many of those that voted for her husband’s impeachment had their own adulterous scandals and decried such an invasion into their privacy. That’s about as vindictive and mean-spirited as she gets, so if you’re expecting a lot of name-calling and mud-slinging, I think you’ll be disappointed as well.

If you don’t like Hillary Rodham Clinton for whatever reason, I doubt you will want to read this book to begin with. If you do, I doubt that this will do anything to change your mind. The Clinton-haters will just write most of the book off as excuses and lies. People who like her, like me, will gain some knowledge of what it was like to be under such intense scrutiny. Those that might benefit most from this book are those that are on the fence and really do not have a grasp of what Whitewater, “Travel-Gate”, and Kenneth Starr were all about. I myself learned quite a bit about many of the processes that took place during the eight years that Bill Clinton was President.

I do recommend this book, however, I think Hillary would have benefited from a bit more in the editing department as well as writing a bit more from the personal level. It will be interesting to see what others write about this time in their lives and to see how they compare to her recollections.

Leave a Reply