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Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History

Review

Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History

Let's get one thing straight: A WOMAN LIVING HISTORY doesn't conform to the stereotypes surrounding teen lit. Free of love triangles, vampires and dystopian governments, this insightful analysis of Clinton's career captured my interest the old-fashioned way: an all-too-human protagonist and a never-ending slew of conflict. From Bill's infamous womanizing to the assault on Benghazi, A WOMAN LIVING HISTORY embraces each and every obstacle Hillary encountered in her rise from Wellesley's first student commencement speaker to America's first lady to Barack Obama's secretary of state.

But in spite of the all-too-real challenges Hillary confronted, A WOMAN LIVING HISTORY still manages to blend history, biography and bureaucracy into a dreamy 448 pages of escapism. Let's be honest: I'll never breeze through Yale's law school, jet around the world as a crusader for women's rights or have someone write my biography. Yet A WOMAN LIVING HISTORY offers us underachievers a glimpse into Yale Law, the Arkansas governor's mansion, Capitol Hill and even the Oval Office --- and what could be more escapist than that?

Don't mistake escapism for fantasy, however. Despite --- or perhaps because of --- the genuine admiration suffusing this biography, its straightforward prose never degrades into a saccharine campaign ad.

Free of love triangles, vampires and dystopian governments, this insightful analysis of Clinton's career captured my interest the old-fashioned way: an all-too-human protagonist and a never-ending slew of conflict.

But just as a half-dozen scandals lurk behind every campaign season, A WOMAN LIVING HISTORY suffers a few missteps of its own. Though this engaging, nuanced dissection of Hillary's career might offer the odd tease of gossip, these glimpses into Clinton's personal life fade into the catalog of her public service. (This level-headed biography is about as far from a juicy tell-all as Frosty is from the abominable snowman.) 

Quoted recollections of, reflections on, praises for, and accusations against Hillary illuminate her life in panoramic detail; they can also bog down the biography's pacing. And though A WOMAN LIVING HISTORY might begrudgingly acknowledge the sex, tax and investment scandals, Hillary's triumphs remain the bio's obvious focus --- a focus reflected all-too-well in its page allotment.  Remember the Texts from Hillary tumblr? That meme (and Hillary's good-humored reaction) claims a page-and-a-half, though the first 1980's allegations of tax fraud don't extend beyond a few paragraphs.

Although we won't know the victor of the 2016 election until almost a year from now, an undercurrent of triumph already electrifies this frank, hopeful account of Hillary's career. And why shouldn't it? For all its blunders, A WOMAN LIVING HISTORY, not to mention Hillary herself, remains an unforgettable triumph.

Reviewed by Alison S.,Teen Board member on February 5, 2016

Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History
by Karen Blumenthal