on 15 June 2004
When you see these types of books you think that it will be another self promoting piece of nonsense but this is in essence a very personal and very open book. With clear focus on Hilary rather than the Clinton Administration, it puts forwards her goals and her beliefs, while remaining honest and impartial. She is not blind to the faults of her husband, a man i greatly admire. It is a good read, and anyone interested in politics, first family or just likes the Clinton family would enjoy this. Even to enemies of their beliefs it provides a candid insight into the work of decent Americans, unlike a certain one we all know.
on 25 August 2004
I'm getting a bit sick of people saying that this isn't a good autobiography just because you don't find out anything new. When was the last time you read something new in an autobiography of anyone remotely famous anyway, without having seen it first splashed across all the tabloid newspapers 3 weeks before the book is even published. I didn't read this book expecting any new and sensational information but actually found that it was one of the most personal autobiographies I have ever read. The understanding you gain of Hilary Clinton's character is fascinating, and although I am not usually a very sentimental person the rawness of her writing over her husband's betrayal almost brought me to tears. Forget the critics, read this book.
on 10 April 2006
OK so first off we need to establish that Hillary isn't a writer. However she does have a neat lawyer-ish way of caring for words. And the book is certainly clearly written and relatively easy to follow even for someone with only a passing interest in US politics. For me the explanations of the policy issues were properly written for a general audience rather than a specialist one and I did admire that she was able to make complex issues relatively accessible. Of course this book is really a preamble to her presidential run so if you're expecting any major personal revelations you'll be disappointed. But it does provide a very useful insight into a fascinating period in American politics. Well worth reading.
on 26 August 2003
Hilary Clinton is no raconteur and several chapters of Living History are hard work. Her recollections are recalled with precision rather than affection. But recounting her efforts on womens issues, during the second term in the Whitehouse, the narrative takes shape and form and becomes alive and a joy to read.
There are no brave new revelations into Lewinsky, Whitewater or the many other scandals and near scandals that dogged the Clinton Presidency. Handled with the skill of the politician, she passes the indiscretions to Bill to explain. Hilary Teflon.
This is not a manifesto for the Hilary Presidential campaign, but a rather bland account of her life that without admitting too many mistakes, fails to claim perfection, but is a pretty good C.V. She claims to be a wife, a mother, a sister, a woman, simply driven by John Wesleys' command to do as much good as possible.
The great right wing conspiracy theory is given an airing and not without good cause. When the most powerfull man in the world is likely to be a woman in 2008, then Hilary will find out what a right wing conspiracy is really like.
Living History has the foreboding of a job not yet finished and half time scores are not that interesting.
on 31 December 2012
Written by the more intelligent and accomplished of the two Clintons, Hillary's autobiography is in many ways superior to Bill's. Alas, most of it covers a life working in her husband's shadow - unjustly, since she is the more talented of the two of them - nevertheless, this book is still worth reading. Unlike Bill, Hillary Rodham's earliest political orientation was broadly 'conservative'. It is interesting to read about why and how she changed stripes and became a 'progressive', as she terms it. Interesting because most of us, as we age, move in the opposite direction ideologically. Of course, the terms 'conservative' and 'progressive' are used here highly-relatively. In a sense, Hillary Clinton has always been a conservative and remains so today, just a well-disguised one. Her conservatism rests in her acceptance of the system. It is apparent from this book that she has never adopted (except maybe very fleetingly) any kind of critical or radical perspective. Indeed, even when still very young, her senior college thesis was centred around a critique of radical community organiser Saul Alinsky.
Nevertheless, Hillary Rodham's values changed at some point. She moved from the broadly conservative wing of the Establishment to its racially- and socially-liberal progressive wing. It seems that she was always quite 'liberal'-minded in the traditional sense of being tolerant. In a time of widespread campus activism and social upheaval, this innate tolerance became her soft underbelly: she was sucked-in by the rhetoric of the New Left and while she did not join its radical movement, its precepts influenced her greatly and caused a slight adjustment of her political and moral compass. The major specific influence was the Civil Rights Movement which was heating up during her college years, and the pivotal point was the 1968 Republican Party Convention and the Rockefeller-Nixon split (Hillary Rodham was a Rockefeller supporter). As she moved on to law school, her interests began to centre around liberal-related issues and causes, particularly with respect to children and families. She met Bill Clinton, a fateful event in her life which changed everything.
Reading this book, I felt a slight sadness in that it is clear Hillary Rodham was someone of presidential or senatorial potential in her own right. Indeed, she has always been far more talented than her husband and it was predicted early on that she would be a major and important U. S. senator or even America's first woman president. Instead, Hillary Rodham became Hillary Clinton. She failed the bar exam in Washington, D.C. but passed it in Arkansas, and so she then decided to move to that state to be with Bill Clinton. Some people will wonder if America's interests might have been better served if only she had decided to stay in Washington, D.C. and resit that damn bar exam. Bar exams are pestilential, nuisance things: lots of perfectly intelligent people fail them. She could have stayed put and pursued her own career, but instead she chose to follow her heart.
And that schism, between heart and mind, I think is what defines her. In common with many high-level thinkers, her mental life harbours a paradox. She understands fully the self-limiting nature of mainstream politics but she engages in it anyway in the belief that real, lasting change (to paraphrase a sentence in this book) can be achieved "from within". It can and it can't. It just depends on whether you are part of the game or not. If you are part of the game, then you must follow its rules and compromise and vacillate. The best way to achieve change is to be a hybrid, to stand against the system while being part of it. That is how the most effective revolutionaries work. In fact, that is how Barack Obama, an obvious revolutionary, is working. Hillary, I sense, is too wedded to the Establishment and conventional thinking and this is her one flaw. It's clear from this book that in her passions - children, families, the law - she is quite innovative, original and provocative in her thinking, but when it comes to politics she lapses into Washington, D.C.-speak and pushes the standard product line, regular coca-cola. In short, she does not present as an imaginative politician, but I will defend her and say that I think this is partly the professional caution of an ambitious politician (once bitten...).
Those are my impressions about Hilary Clinton from reading this book. I think she writes well and she is open and frank about some very painful events in her life. It strikes me that when writing about her time as First Lady, Hillary Clinton is offering us something unique: that is, the perspective of a First Lady who could hold her own with the men around her, and then some. That's not to do down either the men, or any First Lady past and present, but it is refreshing to see a woman operate in that role autonomously. It's just a shame for her, and maybe for us, that she was not the one calling the shots. As this book relates, she was eventually elected to the U.S. senate in her own right, and so maybe one day she will reach the pinnacle, but I think she will have to live down the Clinton presidency first.
on 8 May 2015
A genuinely riveting read, not just because of who Mrs Clinton is but because you get a fantastic insider view of American politics. This autobiography goes up until 2004 when Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes a New York Senator and I really do recommend this to anyone who wants to find out who Hillary Clinton actually is! She has carried out so many visits to different countries, presided over many new laws and has a genuine desire to work with others (on both sides) to push for reforms concerning women, children and healthcare. I was riveted and my respect for her increased - I did not know just how much she did for so many different groups of Americans and people in different countries. The book also lays bare the vicious political minefield of American politics and some of the skulduggery made me gasp - anyway, get this and enjoy it - I did!!
on 17 June 2003
First of all, this book doesn't read like Hillary Clinton. HRC has a fairly distinctive turn of phrase, and this comes across as being written in bland journalese. There's very little insight into who HRC really IS in this long book, and beyond fairly ritualistic hand-wringing over Flowers, Lewinsky and the Whitewater scandals, there is never much insight into her thoughts.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is an intelligent and powerful woman and I hoped to understand more about her politics, her world-view and her life from this book. I didn't. I got the impression that she's been edited into inoffensiveness, with the object of offending nobody. Perhaps after a Presidential campaign Hillary will feel provoked to write some more penetrating memoirs.
I am British. I am 72. I have spent much of my life studying and being involved in British politics, even to the extent this year - 2010 - of standing as a candidate for election to the House of Commons. (I lost big time). I reckon that I know a fair bit about British politics. I have also spent much of my life studying American history and watching American politics. I reckon that I know a fair bit about American history and politics. But I also reckon that, American history and society being much more complex and varied than British history and society, it is bound to be true that the American political scene is more varied and complex. It is in this light that my recent consecutive reading of two books - 'Living History,' by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and 'How I Joined The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy,' by Harry Stein - was extremely interesting and enlightening. I liked both books, for different reasons, and I give them both five stars.
Mrs Clinton has truly lived history - and may well have more history to make - and I readily confess that I admire both her and Mr Clinton. The secret of Bill Clinton's rise to the governorship of Arkansas and then to the presidency seems to me to have been a direct result of his having grown up in the South and, consequently, having an easy and understanding relationship with much of the black community. This, though, is probably part of the reason for some who have had very uneasy relationships with the black community having it in for Bill. We don't - yet - have a large black community in Great Britain and I am opposed to further massive increases in non-white immigration. I am also opposed - in the same way that Harry Stein seems now to be - to 'multi-culturalism.' But America is not Great Britain. America has always been multi-racial and multi-cultural. Bill Clinton, ably aided by his Illinois-born wife who grew up in 'Yankee territory' and initially knew less of the South, has always been able to deal easily with the multitude of races and the multitude of cultures that make up the United States of America and, whilst I rail against my country changing too much and too rapidly, the former president and the former 'First Lady' found friends and supporters right across the racial and cultural ranges in their great country. My wife and I felt this to our very beings on the brief occasions that we met the campaigning Clintons and on the day of President Clinton's first inauguration in 1993. We rejoiced then with many other races and cultures and it is worth remembering that Bill followed one of the Bush presidents and, in turn, was followed by the other Bush president. Does anyone in either of our great countries seriously suggest that either Bush was superior to Bill Clinton? I think not.
Hillary Rodham Clinton was convinced that a 'vast right-wing conspiracy' was out to get her and her husband. The evidence that she produces is extremely convincing and it is well that it is clearly documented. I am convinced that the conspiracy was initiated and motivated by and through the ancient but understandable animosities of Arkansas, a beautiful state with a divided and troubled history. I am also convinced that the American people, through their representatives and through successive polls, delivered verdicts on Bill and Hillary Clinton that enabled both to continue to serve their country whilst holding to higher political policies and standards than their critics of 'the Right' could ever contrive. It has also been amusing to re-read reports of the immoral imbroglios of some of their principal and most vocal critics. Nobody is perfect, but Bill and Hillary Clinton are better people than I or their principal critics are. I salute both of them and I commend whole-heartedly Mrs Clinton's excellent and well-written book.
However, I have always been on 'the Right' in British politics. I was an admirer of Margaret Thatcher (and President Ronald Reagan) and, because I have been and am one of those who shout at the TV when too much left-wing liberalism appears on the screen, I can understand the rage that such as Harry Stein exhibits in his later books. I was never a political Liberal: Mr Stein was. It is clear that Mr Stein is now, like me, one of those who shout at the TV. He does more than shout: he writes well, too. I wonder if one or both of the following factors have played a part in Mr Stein's 'conversion' from 'Liberal' to 'TV shouter.' First, he has aged. According to wikipedia he was born in 1948. That makes his age about 62. I started shouting at the TV when I was about 62. Second, Harry Stein married well. (In fact he married Priscilla Turner, a distant cousin of my wife). He has children (who are also, therefore, my wife's distant cousins). He has responsibilities. A lot of former 'Liberal' men with nice wives, children and responsibilities become right-wing or 'TV shouters' or both. I understand all this. What I cannot understand is Mr Stein's vitriolic diatribe against the Clintons. This diatribe suffuses the whole of his book. If one believes, as I do, that a 'vast right-wing conspiracy' was out to get Hillary and Bill Clinton and, if one acknowledges, as I do, that the conspiracy was flawed and failed, then Mr Stein demeans himself and his otherwise excellent writing by harping on about the Clintons.
I would advise readers to get hold of this book, to read it with a sceptical eye, to agree, perhaps with Mr Stein's 'TV shouting' style that may have come with his age and his married and fatherly state, but then to recognise, as I do, that, whilst 'liberalism' may have gone too far and too fast, the Clintons were and are an honourable couple who don't deserve Mr Stein's vitriol and who may yet have more to give to their country and to the world.
on 19 June 2004
This book recounting Hilary Clintons life from her early years to the White House years is a little like traipsing through treacle followed by a swarm of angry wasps. By that I mean its boring, hard to get through and you just want to be done reading it. Its wonderfuly factual. but dreadfully boring. Hilary does nothing to engage the reader. She is about as endearing as frostbite. For me it did not deliver what it promised. Sadly it was also the only book I took on holiday a mistake I shall never make again.
on 11 March 2008
I came to this book through the coverage of the 2008 democratic presidential contest with no real feelings for Mrs Clinton.
Living History is predominantly a political memoir of her life up to the end of Bill Clinton's presidency, but includes details of her upbringing and early years. To start with, it has to be said that the first few chapters of this book, where she covers her family background, her childhood, her adolescence, her student life and meeting Bill Clinton, are dreadful. She covers a great deal of time in short paragraphs, repeatedly punctuated with a little message about what this or that experience taught her about democracy, American values, service etc. It renders these personal chapters very dry and dull. Instead of being personal and nostalgic, they read like a political CV, justifying her qualification for the life she went on to live. It's a real shame.
That said, once Clinton begins to talk politics, the tone and focus changes and it is abundantly clear that this is her real passion. These chapters, which comprise the rest of the book, are both fascinating and engaging and though often full of self-justification, are much more subtly written. The section covering her time in the White House champions Bill's cause without spending any real time on his successes, focusing instead on setting the record straight on the more controversial parts of his tenure: thus, there's a lot about Whitewater, a lot about Hillary's failed attempt to influence healthcare reform and fairly regular character assassination of Kenneth Starr. Curiously, there is remarkably little about Monica Lewinsky, which is odd given the often defensive tone of the book.
The book is on the whole a genuinely interesting read and Mrs Clinton comes across as a true feminist, proudly breaking new ground for women in politics. In the current climate it can read a little like an application to be president and she will insist on stressing every moment when she was involved in Bill Clinton's more successful policies, which grates after a while. Those looking for an emotional response to being First Lady will be disappointed; she strikes a curious balance between political candour and extreme personal reserve, but after having so much of her personal life splashed across the papers she's probably entitled to leave some things to your imagination.