Obama has the nicest titles for his books. I think my favorite is “The Audacity of Hope” but they’re all good. But titles are one thing, lengths are another and this book is 730+ pages long in Kindle/hard cover format! That’s 29 + hours for the Audible. Good grief – sigh.
A Promised Land
by Barack Obama
2020 / 730 pages
read by the authorRating: 8.5 / memoir
(Both read and listened)
I’m not surprised to see the online ratings (Amazon and Audible) being either a 5 or a 1 because people loved or hated Obama – there are a few 4s stuck in there and they’re due to price or foreign reader. I’m an Obama fan so I expected my rating to be a 9 or more. I was disappointed but I’m not sure why – parts were great, other parts were relatively boring. (Michelle’s memoir was half the length! And Barack is going to do another volume! – LOL!)
About the length – I suspect Obama loves the sound of his own voice, written or spoken. Yes, it’s thoroughly readable and mostly enjoyable being as well read as it is written. The words aren’t really wasted because they all help set a total environment. This book took me a long time to read and I had to take breaks for crime novels – actually for all 7 Mick Herron Slough Horses spy mysteries.
It’s basically a chronological overview of his 8 years in the White House and relates the daily tedium, the battles for legislation and the highlights like the killing of Osama bin Laden as well as some moments of personal life . Obama includes some of his own reactions and responses, his thought processes but he never gets terribly insightful.
There are no source notes – he probably used his journals and diaries and calendars. My opinion of that is that this is a “memoir” which means it’s from the author’s considered memory and doesn’t have to cover everything. So much has happened since 2009 and this book only goes through September 11, 2012.
The photos in the end section are evocative and well-chosen. But the events he covers are already history and will soon be of interest primarily to historians – it’s an interesting walk down memory lane though and I remembered most of the events as I read. Obama’s attention to details is wonderful. Michele has her own memoirs and who knows, their daughters may write memoirs, too – it wouldn’t surprise me.
LOL I have a two-volume memoir of an ex-Prime Minister and both of them are chunksters.
But, from an historical PoV, I think it’s important for them to set out the record, as they see it. I think it’s better if they refer to their notes or diaries at the time, plus their reflections so that it’s an honest report, by which I mean that every leader makes mistakes and thinks that what they’re doing at the time is the right thing, but on reflection, they regret it.
As for the killing of Osama Bin Laden, I’d be disappointed if Obama didn’t regret that. Bin Laden was an evil man who led an evil organisation but like everyone else he was entitled to a fair trial and he didn’t get it. Long term, that kind of flouting of international norms about law does no good for America’s reputation.
Oh yes, I think memoirists also sometimes misremember stuff so just checking to satisfy your mind that you do indeed have the dates and figures correct is a good thing. Horrible to have your memoir come out and it be wrong about your mother-in-law’s birthdate or something.
As to bin Laden – well I don’t think Obama feels one tiny bit of guilt for that. He talks about feeling guilty for sending boys to war and having them come back mutilated or dead. The bin Laden raid was the culmination of 10 years of search, some luck, careful planning and taking a chance. It was discussed over and over and over. When it came down Obama and his military people watched it unfold on live TV somehow. There was nobody saying he didn’t do it – even him, because although he denied it at the time, 3 years later he opened up to it all on a tape with Al Jazeera which was played many times I guess.
We couldn’t even get trials held in the US for other al Qaeda prisoners and there were people who really wanted to hold them in New York City.