What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton | Weaving Pages: What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Thursday, 28 December 2017

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened is an unflinchingly empowering account of the 2016 election and its aftermath observed through a varying lens of both political pragmatism and genuine raw empathy. A must-read for anyone who accompanied the campaign with bated breath.

Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Series: N/A 
Source: Bought
Simon & Schuster 
Published: September 16th 2017
No. of Pages: 464

“In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down.” —Hillary Rodham Clinton, from the introduction of What Happened

For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Clinton takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet.

In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. With humor and candor, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics... - (Read More on Goodreads.) 

4.5 stars

Love her or hate her, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a formidable woman with a formidable story, so it's fitting that what has frustrated me most since the 8th November 2016 has not simply been the results of the election itself -as agonising as it might have been- but the dialogue that remains surrounding it. It's the claims that this was an election about 'the lesser of two evils', the way conversations seem to relish and fixate upon describing the pitfalls of Clinton. White noise focused on her failures has permeated our discourse to the extent that no one seems to notice that this is a woman with a myriad of accomplishments; one who through sheer force of will has made her mark on the United States of America. To me, this makes the act not only of writing but reading What Happened a political one. It's an act of defiance to be willing to read Clinton's own words on the events of 2016 and to not blindly accept the negative rhetoric surrounding her, but make an effort towards understanding the complexity and often difficulty of leading a life in politics; I highly encourage you read it.

If you do, you'll find reading What Happened to be a vivid return to the run up to the election, complete with bittersweet tidbits of what it was like to live and breathe the campaign, not just watch it. Punctuated with dry humour and anecdotes that make the book nicely readable, it isn't allowed to become bogged down in policy, nor does it attempt to simply regurgitate Clinton's words from the campaign trail. Instead with careful candor we are offered a reflective account of the 'what ifs' and the 'what might have beens'. For anyone who found themselves avidly invested in the 2016 election, this book is almost strangely therapeutic; the chance to digest the events outside of their original fervent and tense atmosphere is unique.

However, I do find it interesting that the book is marketed to be Hillary Clinton at her rawest, a rare moment to witness the politician with her guard down. I take issue with this, not because it's untrue but because it isn't consistent. Often the book is gloriously detached; a life of jetsetting with the rich and famous is one which the majority of readers find too transcendent. Perhaps this works in Clinton's favour, however, since the glamour of experiences few can make for wildly attractive reading. At other times, 'Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Politician' unmistakably shines through. I found I could tell, as if being in on some breathtaking secret, which parts of the book had been carefully worded to ensure she came across as wonderfully pragmatic as ever. For some this may be incredibly disheartening; if you want loud, hard-line politics you'll find it very rarely in What Happened. However, I see it more as a necessity, a subtle but telling sign of someone who's played the political game for a long time and is not quite done yet.

As follows, what stands out to me from this book is the times were it becomes poignantly personal. Clinton is at her best when she speaks about her family, about the people she clearly loves and cares for. If anything, this is where Clinton lets down her guard, because she sensitively relates how various people have impacted the course of her life and political decisions; hers is a story of growth and change. This is a book which makes you reflect, and somehow I wish that Clinton had shown more of herself in this manner on the campaign trail, that she wasn't as manufactured like in the political sections of the book I've mentioned above. I feel as though overcoming this political survival mechanism and at times being raw and opinionated would have perhaps done more justice to the woman that stands out in the more candid sections of the book.

Yet What Happened isn't just about the mistakes made in 2016, but about continuity and the aftermath. I am glad that the book doesn't get entirely caught up in reflection but looks onwards too, because Clinton's message is one of hope. 2016 was a battle from which no one escaped unscathed, but I firmly believe we are stronger from our wounds. This is the resounding message at the end of this book, and in doing so Clinton urges us to look forward and not get stuck simply reflecting on the past. The best part of What Happened is the fact that is ends on a unflinchingly empowering note; this is far from the end.

rita xo

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