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The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America [Hardcover]

George Packer
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Jun 2013

Just over a decade into the new millennium, America is beset by a sense of crisis. The seismic shifts that occurred in the space of a generation have created a country of winners and losers, leaving the social contract in pieces. In The Unwinding, George Packer narrates the story of America over the past three decades, bringing to the task his empathy with people facing difficult challenges, his sharp eye for detail and a gift for weaving together engaging narratives.

The Unwinding moves deftly back and forth through the lives of half a dozen characters, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the industrial Midwest trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington careerist; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire. The narrative alternates these intimately told stories with biographical sketches of the era's leading public figures, from Oprah Winfrey to Steve Jobs, capturing the year-by-year flow of events. The Unwinding portrays a superpower coming apart at the seams, its elites and institutions no longer working, leaving ordinary people to improvise their own schemes for salvation.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 447 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (13 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571251285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571251285
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.2 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Packer's is an American voice of exceptional clarity and humanity in a tradition of reportage that renders the quotidian extraordinary. When our descendants survey the ruins of this modern imperium and sift its cultural detritus, American voices like this will be the tiny treasures that endure. (David Goldblatt Independent 2013-06-15)

The historic scope of Packer's book - from the late-Seventies economic downturn right up to the recent Occupy Wall Street protests - is as impressive as its immense ambition and its cumulative narrative power ... A Great American Novel in the guise of a Great Nonfiction Epic, The Unwinding asks us .... that daunting, unsettling question: do we truly like the world we have made for ourselves? (The Times)

Epic, sad and unsettling history of the last four decades in the US ... It is a testament to Packer's talents that The Unwinding is powerful, rather than off-puttingly earnest or just depressing, and that it lingers so long after reading. The sense of loneliness - of isolated souls, failed by their institutions, pummelled by the forces of big money - seems to seep under your skin, and to stay there. (Oliver Burkeman Guardian)

Packer is among the best non-fiction writers in America ... In its sensibility, The Unwinding is closer to a novel than a work of fiction. It is all the more powerful for it. (Edward Luce The Financial Times 2013-06-16)

Book Description

A remarkable, moving book on the USA in crisis by the country's finest political writer.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 21 Sep 2013
By Robert
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book offers an insight into what has been happening to America over the past three decades or so that is close to genius. It is written with the descriptive style of a gifted novelist but tragically, it is not fiction. America - so like us but so, so different. The American psyche is enigmatic and seemingly, the more one knows the less one understands. Perhaps it is the country's pioneer roots and the self selecting nature of the 300 million descendants of the original immigrants who had the courage to seek a better life in a 'new world', but it is their very qualities, which made America, that now seem to be working against it. To me, those 300 million souls appear to have confused competing for a better life with competing against each other. America's physical isolation and its people's widespread lack of knowledge about the rest of the world, with their susceptibility to believing in the thoughts of others, whether a religion, an advertisement or the persuasions of an interest group, has left the nation prey to a self interested political class that is itself controlled by an even more self interested business elite. What other nation can suffer such widespread medical problems for lack of healthcare but still get angry at the suggestion of a healthcare system similar to the rest of the civilised western world? Perhaps because Americans appear reluctant to think for themselves they believe it would make them communists since they have swallowed hook, line and sinker the propaganda of the medical industry which, to preserve its privileged position, has told them universal healthcare is 'socialised medicine'. America has a painful time ahead if it is to develop successfully into an advanced 21st century state. The trouble is, the rest of the world will have an equally painful time whilst it makes that adjustment.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but unsettling 2 Aug 2013
By Men Dhu
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliantly written and unsettling analysis of the American way of life over the past 30 years - one might say the decline of the American way of life.

Written through the eyes of half a dozen characters the 'Unwinding' really does get to the heart of the decline of a once great nation - lessons for us in the UK as well.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Meynell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
America is a country I've grown to love (or at least certainly the bits I've visited). And as Bono has said more than once (perhaps explaining why he's never forsaken his Irish roots despite his love for the US): Ireland's a great country, but America is a great idea.

But like all idealism, it often gets dislocated from reality. Patriotic fervour blinds us to the margins and the dispossessed. Which is why New Yorker staff-writer George Packer's new book is so extraordinary. The Unwinding: An Inner history of the New America is nothing short of a masterpiece. The prose is superlative: understated, humane, at times even lyrical. The subject-matter is dealt with great sensitivity and non-partisanship. There are no political sideswipes here. He is merely trying to hold up a mirror. This is more a careful diagnosis of a country that is greatly loved but for which is there is great (and justifiable) concern. For what is happening to the great American idea when such contrasting bandwagons as Occupy and the Tea Party have gained such traction? How did the Credit Crunch and the sub-prime mortgage scandal come about; what has happened to the much touted American sense of optimism? Why do the big institutions like the federal government, banks, media and the legal system all seem to be failing those who need them most?

Packer artfully manages to take the nation's temperature by means of a handful of individuals, whose stories from the last 30 years he tells through the book.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving. Totally engrossing 12 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For all the literature on what ails the US, this is the most moving and engrossing I have read. There is no political or economic or cultural explanation at all, only the profiles of about two dozen Americans, some famous but mostly from normal backgrounds, which profile how their lives have changed over the last twenty to thirty years. Whilst there is no commentary or explicit opinion given by the author, the main themes jump out from the pages; inequality, pursuit of profit, decline of industry, spin, lobbying.

I anticipate this is is going to be one of the most talked about books in the years ahead ... and if not, it should be.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unwinding 21 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
For someone who has limited knowledge of America and politics, George Packers book was both engrossing and stimulating to me. If you read one more book before the end of the year let it be this one. A sobering reflection on life and the impact greed has on our lives and what it does to us, from the highest to the lowest and the fallout from those policies that keep real people trapped in never ending cycles of poverty. There is hope though and you just might find it written in the lives of those featured in these pages.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great book. 3 July 2013
Format:Hardcover
This is the best book about the USA that I have read in the last ten years. It is as moving and readable as good fiction, and captures the human, moral costs of radical free-market solutions (and the corruption of politics by the financial industry) better than any polemic ever could. He tells the story of the USA over the past 30 years through the individual stories of a diverse cast of characters, ranging from a poor black factory worker to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and a Beltway operator and lobbyist. In lesser hands this could be a bore, but I found Packer's book utterly compelling. He intercuts the narrative with brilliant satirical portraits of the celebrities of the age, the people we're expected to envy and admire.

It is also a book about the future in Britain. Be warned.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
A remarkable book that everyone should read, but i guess it is to late, while we follow exactly the same path in Europe. Greed is like Ebola.
Published 20 hours ago by willy vlyminck
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb.
Published 1 month ago by J. Mcguigan
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, a work of real integrity from a deeply perceptive...
I had read George Packer's 'The Assassins' Gate' About the American disaster in Iraq and found it riveting and essential and extremely well written. Read more
Published 1 month ago by CharlesA
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable
Not sure what all the glowing reviews are about. I expected a book that would try to make a point about "30 years of American Decline" as promised by the subtitle, instead... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Alex
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Book
I bought it for my husband. We both adore George Packer. I always know that a book is good when he (my husband) makes a range of little noises while reading it and insists on... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Eloise Watt
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Dos Passos
"The Unwinding" has been compared to Dos Passos' "USA" but in my view Packer's achievement far surpasses that of Dos Passos. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Robert Gibson
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Sobering
A most unique way of presentation, leaves you wondering if all our "heroes" are also flawed. Read more
Published 9 months ago by David P Gasslein
3.0 out of 5 stars No continuity.
Rather disjointed book.
Gave the impression of being a series of newspaper articles - which perhaps from which it was derived.
Published 10 months ago by Ivor Cheney
5.0 out of 5 stars an interesting read
Great insight into why America has ended up like it has, with few very rich controlling so much and the rest of the population gradually becoming disregarded by the very rich few.
Published 10 months ago by mary sargeant
3.0 out of 5 stars Decline of middle class America
Impact of unrestrained finance capitalism on most peoples lives. Futility of pretending societies do not need strong governments to ensure proper infrastructure, defence, social... Read more
Published 11 months ago by jpm
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