Saturday, June 09, 2007

Madam Secretary---a book review

Lately, I managed to lose a bit of focus on my reading list. I have been going through books relatively quickly but procrastinating on reviewing them. I finished Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright around a month ago. At 512 pages excluding end-notes it was a long read. Fortunately I liked it and liked her. I’m not much of one for reading biographies or autobiographies of a political nature, but Ms. Albright had a life to read about. From her family’s last minute escape from Czechoslovakia in 1939 when she was less than two years old to her final days as Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, Ms. Albright had a life without too many dull moments.
She is an important witness to many of the important global conflicts of our time, whether as her father’s daughter, formerly a Czech diplomat, or in her roles as Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State. To her, the events of the Cold War, and conflicts in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and the Middle East were not just faraway events as they have been to me but points where she could and often did make a pivotal difference in world affairs.
Reading her autobiography, the phrase “tough old broad” kept coming into my mind in the most complimentary way. For a woman who looks like someone’s grandmother this is no mean feat. The book includes a number of political cartoons that were published about her. One from the New Yorker shows a woman trying on a business suit. The caption reads “Madeleine Albright kicked butt in that suit.” She definitely kicked some butt in her life and in this book. She asks to be remembered as someone who “helped teach a generation of older women to stand tall and young women not to be afraid to interrupt.” I hope she has.
My only important complaint about her memoir is that it is relatively impersonal. Her experience of her divorce, relationships with friends and family and highly publicized revelation that her grandparents were Jewish and perished in the Holocaust--Ms. Albright was raised as a Catholic and had no knowledge of her heritage—were told in an fairly bland manner. Perhaps this was necessary for a public figure or maybe it reflects the author’s personality. With my personal preference for more deeply psychological biography this disappointed me but does not prevent me from recommending this fascinating life history.

7 comments:

Kathe said...

Great review, S.

Bookfool said...

Oooh, I want to read this one! Terrific review. If it's a chunkster, it'll have to wait but I was a huge admirer of Albright. Kick butt is right!

Bookfool said...

Oh, forgot to mention . . . I'm going to have one last check-in and drawing for the Chunkster Challenge - check for a post at the end of June. :)

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I love this, it's a very good review, and I admire M. Albright immensely.
I especially love "made a pivotal difference in world affairs"... it's very poignant. And true.
Thank you.
I'm going to link to this in one of my feminism posts, if you don't mind.

Best,
Scarlett

sarala said...

Thanks all and to wanderlust--link away.

MyUtopia said...

I have always admired her. I will have to check out the bio. Thanks for the review!!

Snail said...

helped teach a generation of older women to stand tall and young women not to be afraid to interrupt

What a great maxim!