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The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty Hardcover – April 2, 2019
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"The Matriarch will be read, and worth reading, for a long time to come." -Wall Street Journal
"Susan Page has given us an insightful and engaging portrait of a remarkable American. Wife to one President, mother to another, Barbara Bush was fascinating and complicated, and this absorbing biography brings the woman George H.W. Bush called 'the Silver Fox' to vivid life." -Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush
"Formidable and fearless, candid and sharp, Barbara Bush was among the most interesting people of our time. Susan Page's intimate biography covers both the triumphs and tribulations that made her so fascinating and beloved." -Walter Isaacson, Pulitzer Prize finalist and #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, and Einstein
"What a fascinating read! By giving Page access to her diaries and agreeing to long interviews, Barbara Bush finally reveals the person behind the pearls. And she turns out to be one of the most interesting and influential women of the twentieth century." -Cokie Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of Ladies of Liberty and political commentator for NPR and ABC News
"Except for Eleanor Roosevelt, first-rate biographies of First Ladies are rare. Susan Page's volume on Barbara Bush is an impressive exception. It is a beautifully written and informative study of not only Barbara Bush, but also the presidential administrations of her husband and son." -Robert Dallek, Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times bestselling author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963
"Barbara Bush was the wife of one president and the mother of another, but as Susan Page shows, was far more interesting than that. In the nick of time, Page managed to interview Mrs. Bush at length, gain access to her diaries, and acquire other information that many earlier authors did not have in order to bring us this highly readable portrait, which expands our understanding of this strong, decisive woman, whose influence spanned an era." -Michael Beschloss, New York Times bestselling author of Presidents of War
"Highly recommend!" -Gayle King, CBS This Morning
"""Insightful, touching, personal...this exceptionally readable Bush biography [is] unlike any you will read.""" -USA Today
"""The book has lots and lots of new information. Buy the book. You will enjoy it.""" -"Greta Van Susteren"
"""The book offers an unprecedented look at the life of one of America's most influential women.""" "KBTX TV"
"An incredible look at one of the most powerful First Ladies in history. Go buy The Matriarch now." -Brad Meltzer, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The First Conspiracy
"""Touching and surprising.""" -"Dana Perino"
"...Richly researched, with so many new details." -Norah O'Donnell
"The Matriarch is the rare biography of a public figure that's not only beautifully written, but also shockingly revelatory." -The Atlantic
"Scoopy and insightful." -The New York Times
"A rich and empathetic portrait of a complicated, bright woman." -Barbara VanDenbugh, USA Today
"A remarkable portrait of a woman who, even while shunning the spotlight, had a lasting impact on this country." -Jennifer Palmieri
"""[A] highly readable portrait...Like the arc of her life itself, [Bush] created a bridge for first ladies that reached from traditional feminine pursuits to modern feminism. This definitive biography is a welcome contribution to our understanding of the complex role of presidential spouses.""" -The Washington Post
"Fascinating." -Wolf Blitzer
About the Author
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There were three or four parts of Mrs Bush's life I thought were interesting and well-explored in Susan Page's book. One is the illness and death of young Robin Bush in the early 1950's, six months after having been diagnosed with childhood leukemia. Much has been made of the fact that George and Barbara played a round of golf after Robin died. But the truth was that both Bushes had spent months at Robin's bedside, nursing her though her treatments, and helping her along. Barbara Bush made one rule and that was no one could cry around Robin. The round of golf was a release needed by both grieving parents. And, of course, there was very little support for young George W in his grief over losing his sister, which is a whole other book.
I also didn't realise that Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan hated each other. Both women were famous for protecting their husbands and Reagan was reacting to the somewhat vicious 1980 primary where George Bush ran against Ronald Reagan. Nancy was vile in her cold relations with the Bushes, leading to a final blow-up between the two women after Bush left office.
Susan Page selected several other themes in Barbara Bush's life to explore in detail. She tells about George Bush's affair - or was it an affair? - with his aide Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was sort of around for a longish period in the 1980's. Whatever the relationship was, George Bush did little to clean up the situation, even knowing about his wife's distress.
But Page writes movingly about Barbara Bush's period of depression in the 1980's. It was deep and it was dark and I can't figure out exactly how Bush came out of it. Those are just a few of the topics Susan Page covers in the biography. Page is a very "easy" and smooth writer. I have a better view of Barbara Pierce Bush after reading the book.
Now, after having read (and listened to the Audible edition) of "The Matriarch," I have a better understanding and much greater empathy for the person (and for the other wives of presidents and presidential candidates). Without giving any spoilers, if you do choose to read this book, pay especial attention to the small bit regarding Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan.
As for myself, I felt some sympathy towards Barbara, to be sure, but also a good deal of sadness at her disappointment and just how it hit her in a very personal way. In fact, it reminded me of some of my intimate discussions with my own mother as her life was edging toward its end. And, yes, before you ask, tears do now well up in my eyes in remembrance of the sadness recollected by mom regarding events of her youth or early adulthood. So far as I know, neither of my siblings ever heard the regrets she expressed.
THAT is the worth of "The Matriarch."
Incidentally, this is probably my last review for Amazon Customer Reviews. `For whatever reason, they seem determined to ensure my reviews do not post in a timely manner. Unlike times past, when I submit my reviews, Amazon chooses to delay posting until at least a dozen other reviews post first. The technique is known as burying the review. Further, my review of "Becoming" was removed after it posted more than 700 helpful votes. So, of course, I can take a hint...
BLUSH FACTOR: This is a book that can certainly be read by anybody. The only eff word, believe it or not, appears in the footnotes, which is something few word read anyway.
WRITING & EDITING: Flows very smoothly and with no typos or editing snafus. It doesn't have the same tonal quality as "Becoming" but it does keep one's interest throughout.
Four stars out of five. I enjoyed it, felt deeply saddened in places where Barbara Bush suffered tragedy or heartbreak, but also immense gladness when she experienced the happiness that comes when one is young and in love. I feel that this book made me see more sides of Babbs than I ever would have seen otherwise.