Friday, 23 April 2010

Book Review: Living History


Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Category: Memoir

Challenges: 2010 Challenge (Up to You), Memorable Memoirs, Women Unbound

My Thoughts: I’ll admit I didn’t actually know that much about Secretary of State Hillary Clintons life before she became the First Lady so I found this book to be informative as well as fascinating.

One of the reasons I read this book was for the Women Unbound challenge and I have to say it sounds like Secretary of State Clinton has done a lot of work for women, for many many years. I really do admire her for sticking with a cause for so long and for the work she has done to highlight issues that matter to women around the world. Personally I am very much for the “teach a person to fish” approach that she seems to support. She talks about the advantages of microloans for quite some time in the book, I do wish she had been a bit more specific about how it works and more on what type of things the women who get them do.

It was interesting to see how her political ideas had grown and changed as she grew up. I always find it interesting to see where peoples political ideas come from, especially if they aren’t exactly what their parents ideas are. Her discussion of the social justice issues that informed much of her thinking seemed particularly important for her, which I find important for today’s debate regarding where social justice fits in with society.

Many of the issues she touches upon are still issues in today’s American politics (and the politics of other countries). She discusses the polarization of American politics, something that I find very evident today too. In addition to this, especially towards the end of the book she points out the fear based rhetoric used by many to increase this polarisation. I found this particularly relevant when discussing the health care reform she and the President tried to implement. Many of the tactics she described as being used then are the same tactics that have been used today.  It really made it evident that very little has happened in politics in the last ten years. It is still the same as it was then. And seeing it from someone on the inside was very illuminating.

One thing that really annoyed me was how she seemed to become lifelong friends with everyone she met. Really, every time she met someone new she seemed to say that they had become life long friends. It became tiresome after a while and made me wonder if they were really that good of friends. It came across as almost fake and rather insincere. Maybe I’m projecting, I have a hard time letting people in and count them as friends.

She strikes me as a woman with a great deal of self-awareness. She isn’t afraid to put her hand up and say “what I said was stupid”. She points out her own mistakes. She does say this is what I actually said or this is what I actually meant, yes. But she also realises that she made mistakes. I have always wondered why she chose to stay with her husband after what he did and this book made me understand it a bit more. I don’t think I would have made the same decision but I have a better understanding of why she did it now.

Overall it was a very interesting read and I felt I learned a lot about her as a woman and her as a politician, as well as about the political process (and I am a political junkie). There was a definite political bias but I don’t think this is unexpected. Although politically I fall on the liberal side of the scale I would like to read a memoir or two from someone on the other side of the aisle at the same time. Just to see the different points of view.

I read this book in translation and I was once again reminded why I really do prefer to read books in the original where ever possible. I am going to have to re-read this book in English one day. I think I might be due a bit of a ranty post about translation.

Purchase Living History from BookDepository.


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North.clip_image001This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Jade @ Tasting Grace said...

I think microlending is really great - and definitely part of the "teach a person to fish" approach. Basically how it works is, someone in developing countries (or sometimes a group of people) apply for a loan, usually to start up or expand a crafts business or local store, or sometimes schools, etc. But instead of applying at a bank, they go to a microlending organization and ask for money from individual donors. Then individual donors go to that organization's website. They can browse through the different people asking for money. It usually provides information on 1) how much money is needed, 2) what that person's rating is in terms of their proven ability to pay back the loan, 3) how much other people have given towards the loan, and 4) of course what their project is. So the donor can decide how much to lend.
Then the loan recipient pays back that loan plus interest. The donor can then either take the money out or put it back in the system and give to another person.
My husband and I have been doing this and we love it because you put in $50 or whatever and it's money that just keeps on giving. Whenever you get it back you can just give it out again to someone else who needs it. It's really great because it's often just the help people need to help themselves out of poverty. They might have great ideas and great skills, they just need a little help getting started. If you're interested, we've been using Kiva ( for about a year and a half and have been really happy with them.

Anonymous said...

I don't know a lot about Hilary Clinton's life either, but it sounds like a fascinating life to learn more about.

I know what you mean when you say you're reminded why you dislike reading in translation. Sometimes I think it doesn't matter that much, but always after finishing a book I feel I should've read it in English instead.

Zee said...

Jade~~thank you so much for that explanation. I knew a lot of it but that is really helpful information. I'll look into Kiva. It seems like such a worth while project.

Iris~~It is especially hard when you know both languages (English and in my case Swedish) because I KNOW what the phrases were in the original and I don't like the translations. It is difficult when you argue with the translation choices that have been made :D Side effect of taking translation courses at uni.