I’ve never been one for politics, but the book by Hillary Clinton on “What Happened” during the 2016 US election is very insightful and thought-provoking. The other book I review below is a much lighter “holiday read”.
WHAT HAPPENED – Hillary Rodham Clinton
Rating: 4 stars
In 2016, I watched the news in horror as first the UK voted to leave the European Union in June, and later that same year Donald Trump emerged victorious in the US election, despite a campaign filled with controversy and hate. Although Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote, thanks to the Electoral College system the US uses, Trump managed to win enough key votes to take the oval office. Of course, I followed the election like most other people did, but never quite believed Hillary would lose it. I just didn’t think that enough people he treated so disrespectfully (women, minorities etc.) would be able to vote for someone like Trump. Yet it did happen.
I live in the US now and am deeply impacted by current politics here, which is what prompted me to select this book (despite it’s terrible title) from the library. I was never an ardent Hillary supporter (although I definitely thought it was about time a woman was nominated for the US presidency) but I felt largely indifferent to her and I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. That said, I really enjoyed it. Clinton writes well in easy to read prose and manages to explain well the complexities of the US election. She addresses the major controversies of her own campaign (those damn emails!) and the mistakes she and her team made. She does shoulder the blame for losing, although at times it can come across as a little defensive. In the end, I think that her brand of reason and message of thought out policies could not capture the imagination and support of the people. She also expresses her bafflement at the perception people had of her (pure-evil, untrustworthy etc.) and after reading her book I can share in that confusion.
I recognize that What Happened was written by her, about her election and so it is certainly not unbiased. This book also does a good job showing the softer personal side of Hillary Clinton, as a mother, grandmother and wife, as well as being a revealing look at how she felt about, and dealt with, losing the election. I would definitely recommend this book for fans of Hillary Clinton obviously, but also for those who don’t like her. You might be surprised at how you feel after reading it.
THE IDENTICALS – Elin Hilderbrand
Rating: 2.5 stars
The Identicals is about actual, identical twin sisters, and the twin islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Harper and Tabitha, now 40, were once as close as twins could be. They are driven apart when they are separated during their parents’ divorce. One twin lives on Nantucket with one parent and the second twin on Martha’s Vinyeard with the other. They stop speaking after a tragedy involving Tabitha’s baby son and become estranged. When a family crisis forces them together again many years later, they re-examine their relationship and their falling out.
This book is a “total beach read”, even the setting of the two idyllic beach towns makes me feel like stretching out in the sand on a beach towel. I did enjoy the characters and the writing. Elin Hildebrand is definitely a skilled and popular author who appeals to many. But for me, this book did fall a little flat and was rather forgettable. Before writing this review I had to take a look at the Goodreads page to remind myself exactly what happened! The two storylines of each sister were also easy to mix up and I had to sometimes look back and figure out which twin was doing what and get it sorted in my head.
Elin Hildebrand does a good job of capturing the heartache family drama can cause and I also liked that the reconciliation was not instant. It rang of authenticity in that the sisters take a while to really find their way back to each other. Some pro’s and cons – but overall a worthwhile read if you don’t feel like anything too taxing, or you’re looking for something cozy to read during winter (or beachy if you are taking an overseas summer trip). That said, there are other books in this genre that I infinitely preferred (see anything by Liane Moriarty!)
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