From Publishers Weekly
Remnick (Lenin's Tomb), editor of the New Yorker, offers a detailed but lusterless account of Barack Obama's historic ascent. As a piece of "biographical journalism," the book succeeds ably enough and offers familiar commentary on Obama's cosmopolitan childhood with strains of isolation and abandonment straight out of David Copperfield-rootless, fatherless, with a loving but naïve and absent mother, he suffered racial taunts and humiliations at the hands of his schoolmates. We read how Obama's famous composure was hard-won, how he constructed his personality in opposition to his father's grandiose self-regard, his transformation from "Barry" to "Barack," the drug use, the burgeoning racial and political consciousness-rehashing events that the subject himself has covered in his frank memoirs. But for the scope (and size) of the book, Remnick's interest is ultimately limited to a study of Obama's relationship with blackness, and Obama as the student and fulfillment of the civil rights movement-it's a rich vein but impersonal, and in the author's handling, slightly repetitive. Remnick is in deeply respectful court scribe mode, but he does shine in his treatment of more peripheral characters such as Jesse Jackson and Hillary Clinton, both of whom emerge as figures of Shakespearian psychological complexity. A well-researched biography that pulls many trends of Obama-ology under its umbrella but stints on fresh interpretations.
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Most reviewers were pleasantly surprised to find that anyone could find anything new to say about the president, since he is one of the most scrutinized people on the planet and has already written two memoirs. But Remnick pulls off The Bridge
, in part, through innovative and exhaustive research. Several critics remarked how Remnick's reporting expanded their views of the Obama of Dreams From my Father
; others were grateful for the author's elucidation of the president's crucial years in Chicago. But the book's key trait, and what may even find it some readers among skeptics of the president, is Remnick's nuanced reading of how Obama discovered an identity in the struggles of African American history--before he went on to be a part of that history.