Monday, December 21, 2015

The Residence: Inside the White House by Kate Anderson Brower (2015)

Mostly unexceptional; it's worth a read, but lacked narrative thread and seemed to bounce about.  Not quite an oral history, but also not quite a traditional history either - in fact, I thought it lacked some historical detail.  It felt almost as if Brower was writing to find a theme, and couldn't quite ever find one.  The book is occasionally interesting, particularly the chapter that detailed Kennedy's assassination and the events of 9-11.   If you are looking for gossip, there are nuggets, but perhaps nothing that will surprise you:  the Clintons were complicated, Nancy Reagan was a dragon lady.  The Carter boys smoked pot in the White House; Susan Ford was an under-aged drinker.  The older Bushes come across as the most liked; if more of that likability from President Bush I had come across in the election, he might have won.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White HouseThe Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If you are looking for backstairs at the White House style gossip, it's few and far between, and most of it will come as no surprise (the Clintons were complicated; Nancy Reagan a was a dragon lady; JFK had affairs). A few nuggets of gold (at least for me) were sprinkled throughout - the Carter boys smoked pot; some interesting tidbits about the Ford children; Chelsea Clinton referring to Secret Service agents as "pigs" to their face). This is mostly run-of-the mill; Brower seems to be writing towards a theme but never could quite find one, and the book lacked narrative thread. This never is quite an oral history or a standard history (and in fact, I had some problems with some lack of historical detail). The chapter that include details about September 11, 2001 were perhaps the most interesting in the book; those were stories I'd never heard, and Brower writes about them in such a way to bring alive the terror and confusion of that awful day.


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