From Publishers Weekly
Oral historian and journalist Takiff (Brave Men, Gentle Heroes) offers a wealth of perspective to counter-or at least complicate-the prevailing, and simplistic, image many people hold of America's 42nd president, despite two prosperous terms and a decade of post-White House foreign relations work. Somewhat predictably, Takiff begins with Clinton's birth to a recently widowed mother in Hope, Ark. and ends, more or less, with wife Hillary Rodham Clinton's failure to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Throughout, Clinton's life is addressed by those who knew him, loved him, or, in some cases, loathed him. Chapters are introduced with snippets of conversation and deepened by excerpts of interviews, many of which Takiff conducted himself, with a wide range of people, from unknown residents of Hope to Bob Dole, Michael Dukakis, Tom Brokaw, Clinton staff members Leon Panetta, Dan Glickman, and Charlene Barshefsky, and many others. The author places everything in context and provides sufficient history to tell the full story, resulting in a book that reads like a conversation between 150 people gathered to reminisce about a complicated man.
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*Starred Review* Scholar and oral historian Takiff admits up front that this book won’t settle arguments about what kind of man former president Clinton is, whether liberal or conservative, brilliant or idiotic, empathetic or self-serving. What Takiff delivers is an astonishing collection of 171 interviews with Clinton’s friends, foes, admirers, and detractors as well as reporters and political analysts, collectively offering an intimate portrait of Clinton. The material is arranged chronologically to detail Clinton’s career from Hope, Arkansas, to Washington, D.C. Interspersed throughout are notes that provide context and clarity. Some interviews have a chatty, colorful, and personal feel, recalling little, telling moments in Clinton’s life and the larger moments—deciding what to do about the Vietnam draft, entering law school, getting married, and launching a political career and destroying it with an affair with a young intern. Others are more ponderous and analytical but still offer a personal perspective on a very complicated man, a liberal who enacted welfare reform and produced a budget surplus but failed to deliver on universal health care or come to the aid of Kosovo. Photographs enhance this astonishing look at a very complicated man indeed. Even readers who have glutted themselves on other Clinton books will enjoy the intimate feel of this one. --Vanessa Bush