There are at least two aspects of this book by BBC correspondent Kim Ghattas that make it particularly interesting. It's almost as if two books coexist between its covers, one written by an insider and the other by an outsider. Ghattas, born in Lebanon, covered the US State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, so The Secretary has a well-informed insider view of Clinton and the way she works. Ghattas spent a lot of time traveling around the world with Clinton and her staff, and what Ghattas was able to observe eventually convinced her that Hillary's intelligent and engaging style of diplomacy was re-positioning America's leadership role in ways that will help it stay effective and relevant in our rapidly changing world.
Ghattas witnessed major world events firsthand and her behind the scenes perspective make a fascinating history of the last few years. Pivotal developments she recounts in this book include the Arab Spring, the opening of Burma, the release of the Wikileaks documents, and the fallout from the Japanese earthquake. The September 11, 2012 attack on the US embassy in Libya occurred too late to be included, but it's not the events themselves that give structure to The Secretary, it's Ghattas's status as an outsider. Ghattas grew up in war torn Beirut and her evolving outsider observations, insights, and opinions about America's superpower status and what America could and should do in the world drive the narrative and make The Secretary much more fascinating than even a portrait of Hillary Clinton could be.
This book poses a problem. How do you review a book that strays from its purported topic? The title of the book leads the reader to expect a portrait of Hillary Clinton, with a look at how she managed her duties as US Secretary of State. In reality, Hillary is almost a minor character in this book. Ghattas really delivers a look at US foreign policy, including some insights on the middle-east and South Asia, along with some observations on how Hillary Clinton performed as Secretary of State.
=== The Good Stuff ===
* Ghattas is at her best describing her own experiences in growing up in the middle east. She relates her youthful impressions of the United States. As an example, the citizens of Lebanon viewed the US as some omnipotent force on the planet, and were surprised and discouraged when the limits of US power became evident. A good lesson for modern America.
* From her vantage point as a reporter, Ghattas relates several insights on how the US is viewed in the world. For example, I had never quite realized how easy the US Government was to manipulate into "taking a position". Ghattas relates a remarkable story of how foreign reporters would ask a question at a State Department briefing just to get something on the record of a US position. Then in the home country, the reporter could relate details of a "major US announcement".
* As a reporter traveling with Ms. Clinton on an overseas visit, Ghattas is able to capture the hectic pace that such a trip involves. Transporting the US Secretary of State, and her staff, to six countries in ten days is an incredible logistical problem, especially when security concerns and the ongoing demands of the office are considered. And while we like to think of US (or any nation's foreign policy) as a carefully thought out position, at least some of it is conceived "on the fly". Any business traveler who has redone a presentation while on the plane to the customer's facility will recognize the drill.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===
* While Ghattas does relate first-person experiences with Hillary, much of the material is based on events that happened when Ghattas was literally miles away. Fair enough, reporters do not get to accompany US cabinet secretaries in many of their official duties. The problem is that Ghattas uses the same voice in describing both direct encounters as those related by others. It is not easy to tell the difference, unless it is related in the context of the narrative.
* I found quite a bit of the book to be a repeat of information that I had read previously. I am an avid reader of news magazines such as The Economist, and a lot of the content Ghattas related was familiar to me. I am not in any way suggesting Ghattas has plagiarized any material, just that I had read previous descriptions of the same events.
* The book was a tough read. Ghattas writes in a easily read style, but I found a large portion of the content to be trivial, repetitive and just tedious. I am really not all that interested in the cookies served on the Secretary of State's airplane, or what time the reporters on a trip had breakfast.
=== Summary ===
If you are attracted to the title, as I was, the book is a major disappointment. The book is not an especially intimate portrait of Hillary Clinton, and offers few insights into her style of management and negotiation as Secretary of State. Much of the book is either Ghattas' recollections of previous events, or a retelling of modern history. With a little bit of additional material, the book has the potential to be a reasonable review of parts of US Foreign Policy in the last 15 years.
on August 10, 2013
This is an extremely insightful book on America's role as a superpower. What makes it so is the author's childhood in Beirut during Lebanon's devastating Civil War. All of the adults in her world felt angry and betrayed, convinced the United States had given Assad a green light in Lebanon in return for his support of the US invasion to remove Saddam from Kuwait. Only at the end of her four years covering the Secretary of State for the BBC does Ghattas understand the limits of US power sufficiently to question the foreign policy decision makers of the 1990s and realize that Lebanon was barely a blip on the US radar at that time, not a conspiracy decision with Syria.
It is her middle Eastern perspective that makes this book far more than the story of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Ghattas obviously found her more open and candid in private interviews than the public image often portrays and came to respect her for her long range goals of moving toward cooperation with regional leaders -- more a global chairman of the board than a superpower dictator. The fact that it required four years of intense personal interaction for an intelligent Lebanese journalist to fully understand US inability to wave a magic wand and solve problems across the world is discouraging, but it illustrates the need for patience and pragmatism in US foreign policy. The strongest chapter in this book is near the end, exploring the complexity of the current civil war in Syria. Ghattas does an excellent job of analyzing something few Americans understand -- the radical differences between the Arab revolts in Tunisa, Egypt, Lybia and Syria.
This book about Hillary Clinton's service as Secretary of State is really an education on the complexities of American foreign policy throughout the globe. Kim Ghattas is a Lebanese-born woman who rises through her war-torn country to become the State Department Correspondent for BBC news; here she seeks answers to pivotal questions about just how much can America as the number one world power accomplish - or not! Ms. Ghattas discovers that these multifaceted problems do not enable simple responses; and even if they did, we are invited to understand that perhaps we are not meant to run the world but to be there for others, support, challenge, oppose at times, all in the process of weaving that international tapestry of diplomacy, cooperation, and more. Hillary doesn't back up many times when being challenged by the press overseas as to why America doesn't do this or that - in Pakistan she robustly says to Pakistan leaders that you don't have to take our money since you object to our lack of doing what you want. Bravo to her for this as she challenges the approach that Pakistan historically has held between the West and its neighboring Afghan and Taliban powerful leaders. She continues to travel through the Middle East and addresses the differences in the rising Arab Spring crisis in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria, explaining and supporting the air strikes in Libya that led to a successful end of conflict but which have yet to bear fruit in civil war-torn Syria. Overall, this is a fascinating look at the inside world of a woman who may not have a significant event in her repertoire but who clearly has been a significantly forceful advocate of healing America's tarnished image overseas. Very nicely done and very worthwhile reading whether one knows much or little about American foreign policy.
on December 24, 2013
Having never heard of Kim Ghattas, or perhaps I just don't pay attention when I listen to the BBC news daily, but having an interest in Hillary Clinton's term as Secretary of State, I looked forward to an interweaving of two women's stories: one a seemingly interesting hybrid out of war-torn Lebanon; the other a seemingly interesting hybrid out of suburban Chicago. Neither proved very interesting in this account. Having read many sources about Hillary Clinton, the book added not at all to an understanding of Ms. Clinton nor her tenure as Secretary of State.
The book is larded with canned descriptions in the simplest terms of this or that situation in whatever country the Secretary's plane happens to be parked on any given day, or should I say any "news cycle" as diurnal and nocturnal have ceased to have any meaning in the repetitious banalities conveyed by corporate news sources on a 24/7 basis, most of the "information" based on official statements and media releases. Meetings, meetings, meetings, the Secretary never stops taking meetings, to little apparent result, although we do learn she likes to use a stapler.
I admit this is an ambitious way to approach writing a book, but in the end it is neither about Ms. Ghattas nor Secretary Clinton. Occasionally, Ms. Ghattas is overly impressed with her position and the situations in which she finds herself--who wouldn't be?--but there is so little insight into US foreign policy or any strongly stated views about how the US deploys its power that it becomes a hum-drum diary of relentless travel. We never arrive anywhere near the "heart of American power" as the subtitle has it, nor is our confidence in the foreign reporting capabilities of BBC correspondents enhanced to any great degree (a view validated by daily listening to the BBC news, see above). Since I doubted my own judgement in this, I tuned in to some interviews with Ms. Ghattas on internet videos and found there wasn't much more insight there, either. Ms. Ghattas seems grateful to be constantly spun by the master spinner, Hillary Clinton. Too bad, as her own background brought to the fore more strongly would have made for a more interesting book and perhaps given us more useful insights.
The Benghazi disaster leading to the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens is summarily dealt with on page 335. A few sentences suffice to dismiss the event as "the price to pay for expeditionary diplomacy" (whatever that is), whereas anyone with half a brain sees this as symptomatic of neophyte expeditionary political skills honed in the "cauldron" of corporate network news shows. Hillary Clinton's questionable performance before a Congressional committee investigating the matter is never mentioned, nor any firm views stated. Ms. Ghattas several times refers to her job as to "ask tough questions" and "grill" State Department officials, but like most corporate journalists the questions are about as probing as a turkey thermometer. The astounding opening of Burma and Hillary's meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi is reduced to some laughing and chit chat between identically-dressed women. Both, according to Ms. Ghattas, had "met their match". One would expect to find rare birds in a remote and unexplored country, but one would also expect to find expert birdwatchers developing useful field notes.
Were there some framing themes on which to hang the story this would have been a much better book, but I don't believe the fault is entirely Ms. Ghattas's. Despite her mentions of many advocates in the publishing industry and lots of smart friends, Ms. Ghattas's story is marginalized no doubt because Hillary is the loss-leader for this merchandise. There is a bibliography included, mostly of run-of-the-mill books by journalists like Fareed Zakaria and a few academics, but there is little evidence that Ms. Ghattas has made use of her fluent French and Arabic to probe non-English sources, and distance herself from the echo chamber of official Washington, especially as these skills would give her access to interesting sources throughout the middle east. Statements such as the "Obama administration has laid the groundwork for continued American leadership into the twenty-first century" are risible. Clinton and Obama "strongly believe" that "smart power" is the only way forward? Statements such as these belie Ms. Ghattas's assertion at the end of the book that the now-resolved contradictions motivating her quest to understand American power lend her a new found judgement about America's role in the world.
"The Secretary" by Kim Ghattas offers fresh insights on Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State. Ms. Ghattas is a correspondent for the BBC whose privileged access to Clinton as part of the select press corps allows her to view the workings of American diplomacy from a rarified and uniquely personal vantage point. This excellent book should appeal to everyone interested in Clinton and American foreign policy.
Ms. Ghattas' calculated risk of weaving her own personal story into the narrative succeeds brilliantly. What otherwise might have been a mundane account of travels within the press corp bubble becomes a revelatory tale about the American ideal and the exercise of power in a multipolar world. Ms. Ghattas shares with us her traumatic experience of growing up in war-torn Beirut, Lebanon where forces beyond her control came to define daily existence. (Indeed, the years of hard work that went into becoming the kind of high-value news correspondent selected to travel with Clinton might be seen as part of Ms. Ghattas' personal, life-long quest to come to grips with this past.) The pay-off comes when the author reconciles the realities of American power with the past tragedies of Lebanon; providing profound insights for all of us who seek greater understanding about America and its often confounding foreign policies.
Ms. Ghattas is clearly a Clinton admirer who views her as the right person for the job. We see how Clinton's expertise helped forge a mutually respectful and productive working relationship with President Obama in the wake of a bitter election. Ms. Ghattas amply and expertly provides background material to help us understand the myriad challenges that faced Clinton as she and her entourage traveled to various countries around the globe. From Clinton's diplomatic outmanuevering of China in the South China Sea to her adroit handling of the WikiLeaks scandal and the Arab Spring, Ms. Ghattas paints an attractive picture of a highly effective Secretary whose efforts have significantly improved America's standing in the world.
I highly recommend this book to everyone.
on May 4, 2013
An excellent read! This book asks some pertinent questions about how a superpower works and what expectations one can have of a superpower in the resolution of foreign conflicts. Having worked in the public sector, there are many insights and lessons that I take away after reading this book. The book inspires us to achieve what is humanly possible and compels us to look critically at state actions and our responses to these actions. I didn't want the book to end!
This is not a tell-all book. Kim Ghattas, who lived as a child of a Dutch mother in Beirut during its bloody civil war, had left the country to pursue freedom in the United States. As a BBC correspondent she was part of the elite press corps traveling with the Secretary of State (SecState)Hillary Clinton. This is her memoir of her first four years traveling with "The Bubble." But there are no massive secrets to be explored, or private issues revealed by the former First Lady.
The narrative is good, but the tone is always as a foreign observer. Ghattas often reflects on her past in Lebanon, and interjects her experiences in this book. The previous US president had lowered morale for her people and for the people in the State Department (is that really true?). At times her motus operandi seems to be what the Obama Administration will do for the Middle East. Will peace finally reign in the region? Will troops leave Iraq? None of these answers is revealed in this book. Ghattas' relationship with Hillary is strictly professional. Her feelings toward the new SecState were strictly "ambivalent" (57) as she stands back to see what the new mission will be.
As a person interested in American foreign policy (and an avid reader of most things in the Middle East and Southwest Asia), the chapters concerning Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan were of the most interest to me. And indeed in Chapter 5, "The Shrink Will See You Now." Ghattas reports of a tense, frayed SecState whenever she deals with that dubious American ally-enemy, Pakistan. Ms Clinton comes across as stern toward her Pakistani equivalents, when she has been more jovial and diplomatic during other visits in Japan, Korea, China, and Lebanon. The Obama administration knew that Pakistan was holding Osama bin Laden somewhere within its borders, but where exactly remained a mystery. Ms Clinton's diplomatic but stern and patient style paid off in softening Pakistani officials' acerbic treatment of her as SecState and in her image as a representative of the US. It also appears that Clinton's experience with the Pakistanis have helped her shape her generally positive treatment from Congress, from members from both sides of the political agenda. Even Ghattas' feelings toward Clinton soften as the book moves on, but it never reaches that of an intimate observer.
Chapter 6, "Halloween in Jerusalem" shows how straining the meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders was for Clinton in 2009. Although no true peace was achieved between the two rivals, Clinton's actions show how even President Obama was beginning to see her not so much as his former campaign adversary, but as a woman loyal to his administration and willing to go that extra mile, despite her tendency to talk "off script" and her bluntness toward more difficult leaders. This deepening trust becomes more obvious in Part II of this book. Obama depends on Clinton for his success and her expertise and she does not let him down.
While Ghattas does have some negative comments about the Bush administration and its dealing with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, she does not dwell on the personalities of that era except when comparing Clinton to her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice. Clinton is more sociable, more late, more focused as a listener than Rice, but just as effective as her. Clinton takes her job very seriously and doesn't let her image as a First Lady to her husband, Bill Clinton, damage her. Her image as a hard, compassionate and eloquent SecState is well-deserved and of her own making.
In the end "The Secretary" reveals little of a personal touch of the SecState. Observations are strictly from a press corps member and the hectic lifestyle reporters must endure. Some things are left unsaid (the capture of Osama in great detail, for instance). Ghattas' constant interjections of her past in Lebanon, or her political opinions, do get redundant. What the reader does come away with is a good idea of the SecState's schedule, general style, and a collection of the political headaches that the first Obama term had to endure. It's evident, however, that Clinton helped foment some success for Obama. She has worked hard redefining herself.
For readers genuinely interested in more intimate going-ons during Hillary Clinton's term as SecState, well, they will have to wait until the former SecState writes those down for public distribution.
on March 14, 2013
Hillary Clnton made an immediate impact on the federal workers toiling away at what is known as the Building. From the moment she stepped into the lobby of the State Department and was greeted as a rock star, she quickly sought to utilize the strengths of all its occupants. And it wasn't only lip service that she offered. Her first trip was to be to Asia. Unlike the past two Secretaries of State, she reached out to the men and women in Room 6205:
"The Asia experts, the bureau deputies, the desk directors for each country on the itinerary were taken aback when they were asked to contribute ideas for the agenda and schedule of the trip. Where should Clinton hold a town hall in Seoul? Who should she meet in Tokyo? Which television show was most popular in Indonesia? No one had consulted them for a while, it seemed."
They were probably surprised that she meant what she said to them that day in January 2009. They would not be the last to realize that Hillary Clinton usually did mean what she said.
In The Secretary: A Journey From Beirut to the Heart of American Power, Kim Ghattas explores the limits and the exercise of American Power, using the Secretary of State as her vehicle. Logging 300,000 miles within the Bubble that surrounds SOS Hillary Clinton, and interviewing her one-on-one 18 different times, she takes us along on the trip.
Kim Ghattas is the State Department Correspondent for BBC news. Before moving to DC to take that position in 2008, she lived in Beirut where she was the Middle East correspondent for BBC and the Financial Times.
Child of a Dutch mother and Lebanese father, she grew up in civil war torn Lebanon, at the crossroads of the Christian and Muslim areas of Beirut. Like many others in the Middle East she believed that "America was omnipotent; its power knew no bounds." Her education in the limits of American power is woven into her description of her travels with Hillary Clinton.
Travel as a State Department correspondent is not as glamorous as that enjoyed by White House correspondents (most of whom fly on separate aircraft from the President), however, the reporters do get to spend time with the Secretary as she occasionally wanders back to the press to chat during flights. Being on the same plane, they also get access to staff members. And that access is worth more to them than comfort.
The plane itself, although equipped with all that the Secretary needed to communicate with the Building and the White House, did leave a little to be desired by members of media. Seating arrangements were made by lottery:
"This was a trip with no tickets, no boarding passes, and no assigned seating. It offered many luxuries: someone else sorted out your visas, you never had to go through passport control anywhere, your luggage was delivered straight to your hotel, and you mingled in a VIP lounge with top American officials who loved to talk. But the trip also had its downsides: the traveling press was squeezed in the back of the secretary's reconfigured, no-frills plane. The section had eight comfortable business-size seats and twelve cramped coach seats. Some of the business seats went to Diplomatic Security agents and to Caroline, Ashley, and Nick. We got whatever seats were left. The lotteries took place only once, at the start of each trip, and they could get surprisingly emotional, especially when there were only six "good" seats."
The logisitics of the travel take some space in the book. I find those peeks behind the curtain to be fascinating (How do they feed everybody? They bring all food from the states to make sure that no one picks up a food borne illness by buying from local sources as they travel) The book is rich in the details that create a sense of place and people.
Clinton is indefatigable, traveling a million miles during her four year tenure. She works hard at establishing and retaining personal relationships with her counterparts and heads of state around the world. And this book follows her as she starts in Japan, tours Asia, the DMZ, Indonesia, Korea and signs the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) which opens the way for greater American participation in economic and political issues of the area.
"The United States was going to latch on to what was already there and create new initiatives and treaties everywhere-- a large sticky web of diplomacy. TAC was just the beginning."
No longer was America willing to go it alone. Partnerships were to be the keystone of the Obama foreign policy.
A richly textured background is provided for the visits to the Middle East as one would expect when reading a story written by one who knows the area well. Hillary Clinton tries, without success to get the Israelis to stop building new settlements and the Palestinians to get to the bargaining table. Which is not a real surprise to anyone.
Ghattas covers the Wikileaks scandal, and the cleanup, as well as the Arab Spring and the different responses America offered to different nations. Calling for Mubarak to step down while standing on the sidelines in Syria. Throughout, Ghattas learns more about what the United States is actually capable of doing and willing to do on the world stage. It is not at all simple, easy or straightforward.
Of all the trips, the one that most affected me was Clinton's visit to Burma where she met with Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon. But it was the description of the new capital city, Nay Pyi Taw, built by the military rulers that dropped my jaw.
"Our motorcade, usually an overwhelming sight in any city, could do nothing to fill the twenty-lane highway in the government zone of the city. The annoyance of having a foreign dignitary closing off streets meant nothing in this oversized ghost town that appeared completely depopulated. After we drove past a few cars and motorcycles near our hotel, there was not a vehicle or a person in sight anymore as we approached the presidential palace. We entered the compound through the golden gates, across a bridge over what looked like a moat, and pulled up outside the palace-- a massive marble building that could have been the work of Donald Trump."
I did have to stop and look it up on Google Earth, and while there are no Street Views, there are photos and an empty highway of twenty lanes that is a marvel to anyone who has had to drive the Santa Ana Freeway through Los Angeles.
Ghattas does a good job of condensing what Clinton accomplished in four years even if she didn't bring peace between Israel and Palestine or prevent Iran from working on a nuclear weapon. What she did may turn out to have been more important.
"Clinton saw this as the real achievement of her years as secretary of state and of the Obama administration-- working with the United States had once again become desirable. There would still be clashes of interest; Washington would continue to be criticized; its policies would still frustrate and anger many-- it is after all the fate of every superpower. But America was once more a sought-after partner.
Clinton's key contribution is therefore more intangible but, if pursued, longer lasting-- repositioning America as a leader in a changed world, a palatable global chairman of the board who can help navigate the coming crises, from climate change, to further economic turmoil, to demographic explosions. As part of the Obama administration's effort to redefine American leadership, Clinton became the first secretary of state to methodically implement the concept of smart power. She institutionalized this approach in the Building: budgets now include funds for gender issues, foreign service officers are embedded at the Pentagon, economic statecraft is part of the diplomatic brief. Clinton was determined to make sure her work would not be undone after her departure and planned to invest a lot of her time following up and providing counsel to her successor."
Kim Ghattas' reporting is naturally filtered through the lens of her own past. She complains that the Americans bore too easily, and leave too quickly.
"Eventually, before anything was really fixed in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and sometimes before the real problems had even started, Americans had moved on, they had other problems to tend to."
"Americans often seemed to dole out time like accountants: the minute something didn't work, they gave up and tried something else."
Then she reports without ever seeming to grasp the implications, of the 40,000 dead Americans in South Korea or the 28,500 that still remain to enforce the armistice with North Korea that was signed sixty years ago.
That is a minor quibble, though. Overall she brings a refreshing slant and a clarity to a foreign policy that is all written in shades of gray.
The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power
In the spirit of full disclosure I have to say that I am an ardent admirer of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Each of them, during their time spend in office have done much for our country. Bill during his years as President of the United States, and Hillary as First Lady, Senator and then as Secretary of State to President Barack Obama have
I was sorry when Hillary decided the time had come for her to leave the office of Secretary of State to spend some time as an ordinary citizen. Although, neither of these individuals can be described as ordinary at any time.
I was delighted with the opportunity to read about the days that Hillary Clinton spent traveling in the world in service to her country through the eyes of one of those who were part of the team of journalists who accompanied her, Kim Gjattas. Gjattas was raised in Beirut, the civil war there, was part of her daily life. This gave her a unique perspective during her time as the BBC's State Department correspondent. Her credentials include reporting on her own country's affairs for both American and British newspapers. Then as the BBC's Radio and television correspondent since 2008 . She draws a compelling picture of those days and nights traveling the world in the company of one of the most powerful American women ever to serve her country.
We begin this journey with Gjattas on the very first day of Hillary's term as Secretary of State. It seemed as if from those first moments of taking office, Hillary and her team were a whirlwind of traveling the globe and meeting with not only the powerful leaders of countries, but often their families and ordinary women everywhere. Part of her own agenda was that women be recognized across the globe for the important and influential roles they played, whether they were in government or were raising families.
Clinton had the advantage of being a well-known figure throughout the world, after her time as First Lady to President Bill Clinton. She was far from reticent even in those days and was certainly a working First Lady, with her own office and staff. This however, was a whole new situation. As Secretary of State of the most powerful nation in the world. She not only had to step into an unfamiliar job and learn it from the inside out quickly, she had to forge a working relationship with a man who was once her opponent in the race for president. But if any two people could do that, it was Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They became quite a team over the four years that they worked together.
The effects of WikiLeaks is covered, and the effect it had on Hillary's relationships with leaders across the world. As I watched the news on WikiLeaks, and listened to the news, I was unaware of just how much fallout had occurred that would affect the office held by Hillary Clinton. This informative book helps us to understand that in order to repair some of the damage done, a talented negotiator was needed and Hillary was up to the task.
In fact, this book gives us a look at diplomacy at one of the highest levels, as performed by a powerful woman in our own time. I have a feeling that we haven't seen the last of Clinton. She has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in American politics and policy.
This book was a fascinating and easy read. The author takes us along with her as she spends several years covering a major political figure. This is far from being a dull recounting of the events of the time Clinton spent as Secretary of State. In fact, it was hard to put down. I recommend it, and would call it a four star read.