From Publishers Weekly
Boston Globe reporter Farrell's biography of Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill (1912-1994) is much like the subject himself: large, rambling, sentimental and thoroughly fascinating. Farrell, a winner of a George Polk Award, traces O'Neill's career from its beginning in the 1930s in the rough-and-tumble world of Boston politics to his ascendancy to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1977. O'Neill was often seen as a genial bear of a man, and Farrell shows that beneath this surface lay a complex personality built of equal parts insecurities and a sharp, pragmatic intellect. Yet O'Neill never wavered in his beliefs that "all politics is local" and that New Deal-style government programs could help the folks back in the district live better lives. O'Neill's career is, then, intertwined with the once basic Democratic ideal of activist government. Greatness came late in O'Neill's life, when as Speaker, he faced off against another genial Irish politician, Ronald Reagan. If Reagan sought to bring to a close the New Deal legacy, O'Neill sought to save it. And if the Reagan Revolution won, O'Neill, contends Farrell, softened its effects, made it less severe and more humane, and made himself a folk hero in the process. With wonderful detailDfrom describing ward politics in Boston to deal making in CongressDO'Neill's story is also the story of America in the past half-century, and the tale is thoroughly mesmerizing. Illus. not seen by PW. (Mar. 21) Forecast: While this tome is hefty, Farrell's highly accessible writing style and a continued fascination among the public with O'Neill should garner a large audience for this book, especially but not only in his home state of Massachusetts (the late congressman's 1987 memoir sold 360,000 copies).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
While politicians have been characterized as mere horse traders, there are occasional statesmen like Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, an era of dramatic reform. Reacting to the Watergate scandal, liberals shaped the House into the most democratic political institution in the chamber's history, curbing the speaker's powers in the process. O'Neill, the Boston politician who had replaced Jack Kennedy when the latter moved to the Senate, climbed the leadership ladder like many others. But unlike other speakers, O'Neill also became a national leader. Farrell, an award-winning White House correspondent for the Boston Globe, manages not only to capture O'Neill's inner motivations but also to convey the intricate environment of the unwieldy modern House. Beautifully written, lively, and highly informative, this book excels not only as the best available biography of O'Neill but also as the most readable book for those who want to understand modern Congress. Political junkies will savor it, the public will learn from it, and academics will want to use it in their classrooms, especially when it becomes available in paperback.DWilliam D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.