REVIEW: THE WATERGATE GIRL, BY JILL WINE-BANKS

It was a time, much like today, when Americans feared for the future of their democracy, and women stood up for equal treatment. At the crossroads of the Watergate scandal and the women’s movement was a young lawyer named Jill Wine Volner (as she was then known), barely thirty years old and the only woman on the team that prosecuted the highest-ranking White House officials. Called “the mini-skirted lawyer” by the press, she fought to receive the respect accorded her male counterparts―and prevailed.

In The Watergate Girl, Jill Wine-Banks opens a window on this troubled time in American history. It is impossible to read about the crimes of Richard Nixon and the people around him without drawing parallels to today’s headlines. The book is also the story of a young woman who sought to make her professional mark while trapped in a failing marriage, buffeted by sexist preconceptions, and harboring secrets of her own. Her house was burgled, her phones were tapped, and even her office garbage was rifled through.

At once a cautionary tale and an inspiration for those who believe in the power of justice and the rule of law, The Watergate Girl is a revelation about our country, our politics, and who we are as a society.

 

My memories of Watergate are quite vivid, as I experienced them in adulthood. I was a thirty-year-old social worker with a husband and three children as the scandal began playing out. I was opposed to many of the actions taken by then-President Nixon, but despite these feelings, I was appalled by how events unfolded during those Watergate years. The author of The Watergate Girl was part of the prosecution team that tried the Watergate burglars and those that were part of the cover-up, including Nixon himself.

In view of recent political scandals and the Impeachment of President Trump, I completely agree with the author who has drawn parallels between then and now, but concludes with the assessment that our current situation presents even greater dangers. She writes:

“Today we are up against a deeper existential threat to democracy than we faced during Watergate, a peril exacerbated by a more complicated political, social, and cultural landscape than existed in the 1970s. The country is more divided now, and today’s media is a minefield of fake news and shrill voices from a multiplicity of sources.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the detailed account of the Watergate investigation and hearings, and also liked reading about the author herself, then and now. A brilliant 5 star read. #2020ReadNonFic

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REVIEW: WALLIS IN LOVE, BY ANDREW MORTON

“You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance.” -Wallis Simpson

Before she became known as the woman who enticed a king from his throne and birthright, Bessie Wallis Warfield was a prudish and particular girl from Baltimore. At turns imaginative, ambitious, and spoiled, Wallis’s first words as recalled by her family were “me, me.” From that young age, she was in want of nothing but stability, status, and social acceptance as she fought to climb the social ladder and take her place in London society. As irony would have it, she would gain the love and devotion of a king, but only at the cost of his throne and her reputation.

In WALLIS IN LOVE, acclaimed biographer Andrew Morton offers a fresh portrait of Wallis Simpson in all her vibrancy and brazenness as she transformed from a hard-nosed gold-digger to charming chatelaine. Using diary entries, letters, and other never-before-seen records, Morton takes us through Wallis’s romantic adventures in Washington, China, and her entrance into the strange wonderland that is London society. During her journey, we meet an extraordinary array of characters, many of whom smoothed the way for her dalliance with the king of England, Edward VIII.

WALLIS IN LOVE goes beyond Wallis’s infamous persona and reveals a complex, domineering woman striving to determine her own fate and grapple with matters of the heart.

As a fan of all things royal, I have always been intrigued by the king who gave up his crown for the woman he loved. So much of the tale told in Wallis in Love gives us a peek into the controversial union, focusing primarily on how much of Wallis was all about her own needs, more than those of her husband. Her social climbing ways were fascinating, in that we catch a glimpse of her style, somewhat outrageous at times, and at her need to surround herself with interesting and important people.But Wallis apparently lacked the main ingredients for true social interaction, and by the end of the story, we could only wonder how the banished king could continue to stick to his wife like glue, especially since there were many scenes we saw of her rude and cruel behavior to him. Throughout we are also shown her feelings for her “one true love,” a friend and confidante who was never actually hers.The wartime attitudes of the Duke almost destroyed his life further, but then he narrowly escaped the consequences of his actions.

Looking at the two of them near the end of their days, I felt a sadness and even some empathy for their poor choices and how they had to finally live with what those decisions had wrought. Abandoned and discarded, they were truly alone, and not even really “together.” I was happy to finally close this book and turn my back on them. 4 stars.

Read for the Nonfiction Challenge. –#2020ReadNonFic

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CHALLENGING MYSELF WITH NONFICTION – 1/1 – 12/31/20

The 2020 Nonfiction Challenge is hosted by Shelleyrae, at Book’d Out. 

The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st 2020. Participants may join at any time up until December 1st 2020

My Goal is: Nonfiction Nibbler : Read 6 books, from any category

Categories

1. Memoir

2. Disaster Event

3. Social Science

4. Related to an Occupation

5. History

6. Feminism

7. Psychology

8. Medical Issue

9. Nature

10. True Crime

11. Science

12. Published in 2020

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Each time you read and review a book as part of this challenge, make sure you identify it by adding either a direct statement and/or the challenge image badge to the post. Use the hashtag #2020ReadNonFic and/or tweet @bookdout

Share your review with other challenge participants by posting your name/blog name and title of the book with a direct link to your review in the monthly Linky, which will be posted on the first Saturday of every month. Please take the time to visit a few links and leave a comment after adding yours!

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I have a stack of hardcover nonfiction already…and plan to add to that stack.

Let’s have fun with it!

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CURL UP WITH NONFICTION…

Even though I am not officially participating in Nonfiction November, I already have many books from that category, and I’ve been eagerly adding to that stack.

On November 12, I’ll be receiving my pre-ordered copy of Carrie Fisher:  A Life on the Edge, by Sheila Weller.

Sourced by friends, colleagues, and witnesses to all stages of Fisher’s life, Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge is an empathic and even-handed portrayal of a woman who―as Princess Leia, but mostly as herself―was a feminist heroine, one who died at a time when we need her blazing, healing honesty more than ever.

This morning I read a review of the upcoming release that reminded me of how much I miss this iconic writer/actor/spokesperson.

I have read her books, watched her one-woman show Wishful Drinking, and seen some of the documentaries released since her death.  She and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, were jointly and singularly impressive.  I love that they lived on the same property, with their issues overwhelmed by their mutual adoration.

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Do you love nonfiction, even when it is not November?  Which books are your favorites?  For me, memoirs of impressive celebrities/authors are at the top of the list.

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REVIEW: FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE, BY BOB WOODWARD

 

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.

 

My Thoughts: I will admit that I was devastated by the outcome of the 2016 election. But I was also hoping that, somehow, Trump would surprise us. That we would discover layers of integrity and competence beneath the blustering façade he loved to show the world. His Twitter madness was a sign, to me, though…there were no hidden depths.

Fear: Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward, pulled me in and validated what I was already seeing. As the author revealed interviews and observations that confirmed the chaos behind those doors, I had to keep reading. Was there a ray of hope somewhere?

Instead, as time marched on, the chaos grew, and the staff around the president worked hard to try to manage and contain his worst impulses. They had numerous processes to help keep him on track, since their advice most often fell on deaf ears. He didn’t like to read, he didn’t listen, and he clung to his own belief system, ideas that he had held for many years. He believed that he had good instincts and should follow them, rather than to listen to those with expertise and wisdom. His temper tantrums were often punctuated by damaging Twitter rants, or firing of those who were trying to help him.

His day to day operations showed an unraveling, like a Trump rally on a continuous loop.

Staff complained about how, in his persistence of his ideas, they had to constantly explain to him and justify their positions. In frustration, some said he had the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader.

Attorney Dowd fought hard against Trump being interviewed by Mueller, finally resigning over his inability to persuade the president. That issue is still unresolved. These thoughts at the end summed up some major issues:

“In the man and his presidency, Dowd had seen the tragic flaw. In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting, the obscuring, crying ‘Fake News,’ the indignation, Trump had one overriding problem that Dowd knew but could not bring himself to say to the president: ‘You’re a f…king liar.’

A brilliant 5 star read that left me frightened, but sometimes hopeful: that perhaps calmer heads would prevail…or at some point, someone could put an end to it all.

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