Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan
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Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  1,152 ratings  ·  109 reviews
This book, the only biography ever authorized by a sitting President--yet written with complete interpretive freedom--is as revolutionary in method as it is formidable in scholarship. When Ronald Reagan moved into the White House in 1981, one of his first literary guests was Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Theodore Roosevelt. Morris developed a fasc...more
ebook, 912 pages
Published October 19th 2011 by Modern Library (first published January 1st 1999)
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Dave
Edmund Morris caught a lot of shit for writing this book. Yet, I for one, thought it was one of the best political biographies ever. Reagan was one of those guys defined by public life; he had little use for introspection, personal relationships etc. He was truly most comfortable and at home in the limelight. A quote from the book to illustrate the point:


"Decades before Alzheimer's clouded Reagan's mind, he showed a terrifying lack of human presence. "I was real proud when Dad came to my high s...more
John
Jan 25, 2009 John rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone suffering from insomnia
This is one of the worst books I have ever read. The author injecting himself into the story as a fictional character was an egotistical and awkward attempt to insult the President. Very cowardly. Once I got my equilibrium after the initial confusing first couple of chapters, it was obvious to me that this book was less to do about Reagan, and more to do with the author's oversized ego.

Mr. Morris wrote a critically acclaimed book about Theodore Roosevelt. After reading this disaster, not sure t...more
Bev
Worst biography I've read. Morris doesn’t respect President Reagan, in fact shows great disdain for him on nearly every page. It was apparently written for the entertainment generation: it is crafted into screen plays and Saturday Night Live entertainment which means it’s not credible. And Morris deems he is important enough to tell his whole life story simultaneously with Reagan’s. I kept reading it because this is the authorized biographer who was allowed access to all of Reagan’s papers, jour...more
Mike
I was inspired to read this book about Ronald Reagan, my favorite president in my lifetime, by everything that I had read about Edmund Morris and his exalted biography of President Theodore Roosevelt.

When I first began reading the book, I read the publisher's note and the comments made by numerous people. It was evident that the book was controversial, but I still fully expected to be reading an excellent biography about an excellent president.

You can imagine the depths of my disappointment wit...more
Sarah
There is not going to be a way for me to write this review well, so bear with me while I muddle through.

I bought this book a couple of days after Reagan's death in 2004 from Borders in Springfield, Missouri, along with a city guide of San Francisco and a copy of "On the Road." I bought them for the trip to California, and packed them along with my entire collection of Natalie Goldberg and my heartsick copy of "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn." I found that I had wanted to attend Reagan's funeral, and w...more
Rachel
Oct 14, 2008 Rachel rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with a higher tolerance for fanciful delivery of information than I have
I read quite a bit of this book several years ago but all I can really remember is having to stop because I found the business with the fictional narrator so weird and confusing. It's like that book The Devil in the White City that everyone loves so much. I can't read stuff like that because I need to have a clear idea of where the research ends and the fancy begins.

Ronald Reagan is definitely one of the most fascinating figures I can think of. Somehow he managed to make quite an impression on m...more
Arminius
I was disappointed in this book. Edmund Morris wrote fantastic books about Theodore Roosevelt so I expected his book on the Great Communicator to be just as good. I like that he pointed out how President Reagan developed his communication skills through his acting career and how he adopted his language to be understandable to the masses. I disliked that the author discussed much of his own trials and tribulations which he encountered while writing this book. If you want to learn about President...more
Fred
I enjoyed this book, just as a good read, not as a hagiography (it's far from that), or a history book. Obviously, Edmund Morris's approach (fictionalizing Reagan's life with a participatory, made-up narrator based on Morris himself), was offbeat. And he doesn't really seem to like Ronald Reagan very much, which I think was also off-putting to a lot of people (including me, to some extent, it seemed disloyal somehow, since Reagan essentially hired him to write it as an "official" biography and g...more
Mel
Many reviewers have been dismayed that Morris injected himself as a fictional character in the first half of the book. Those that criticize the method as being dishonest and difficult to follow are clearly not paying attention. I suspect that most negative reviewers would prefer to worship at the altar of their perfect President and cannot abide any criticism of their God and his wife.

Morris was allowed unique access to the inner working of the White House and accompanied Reagan's entourage to t...more
Chris
I liked the actual Biography and thought the author had some good insights. However, it felt like it was as much about the fictional narrator than Ronald Reagan. I didn't know until after I had finished that more than two thirds of "first person" accounts were fictional. I didn't enjoy them when reading, and felt the book would have been much better if they had been left out.
Marlene
I found this a bit difficult to read. The author was trying to be clever, but I sometimes felt like it was an autobiography rather than a biography of President Reagan. However, there certainly are some interesting insights into Ronald Reagan.
Steven

Chapter for chapter, page for page, this is the single daffiest nonfiction work I have ever read from a respected author.


Edmund Morris, author of widely praised books about Theodore Roosevelt, was given a free hand and direct access to prepare a biography of Ronald Reagan, and apparently found himself in over his head. In fact, judging from this weird amalgam of memoir, biography, and melodramatic fiction, Morris lost his mind.
Even Reagan's admirers acknowledged the man's often spooky lack of a...more
Allison
I was only 8 years old when Ronald Reagan left office, so I felt like I was rediscovering the era of my childhood while reading this book. RR was such an imposing figure upon my imagination, and I remember sadly watching as Alzheimer's slowly took his faculties and he dwindled away into a shadow of what he once was as I grew into an adult. I definitely learned much about twentieth-century American history, and especially about Dutch himself. The best part about this memoir is the author's abilit...more
David Peppin
I'm really not sure how I feel about this book. It really took a lot of pages to say very little, but I do feel like I understand RR better as a human than before I read the book. On the other hand, not much attention was given to the political side of his life. The fictional characters didn't bother me that much, since I was aware of the situation before reading the book. It also seemed to be pretty fair. I know it seemed to some people to be a bit rough on the President, but I think the author...more
Linda Appelbaum
This was an audio book for me and I am not sure I like a biography of an American written and read by someone so completely British! That aside, I'm not so sure I have a better knowledge of Ronald Reagan now than I did before except that he was a very morla, black and white kind of person, stubborn, was once a life guard and saved many lives, really had no warm relationship with his children and was utterly worshiped, protected and controlled by Nancy. It just seems that with all the access Edmu...more
Rebecca Esposito
It is a very different approach to writing a biography. Morris essentially invented a character of himself and inserted it into Reagan's life. Overall, it made the book a bit more interested and added a color that some biographies seem to be missing. My only complaint is that he spent so much time talking about "himself" when it wasn't even really himself. It just seemed odd. But this book does give a great background of Reagan's overall personal life. He doesn't go into as much detail on issues...more
Steve
Long winded and bizarre, the author inserts himself into the narrative giving more information about himself than the reader probably wants. Originally commissioned to be Ronald Reagan's official memoire, it is easy to see why the Reagans distanced themselves from this tome. For one, Morris' bio is about half the reading, and frankly, not very interesting; and for another, the picture painted of Reagan is not always terribly flattering. No, he is not painted as a bumbling idiot for whom Nancy ha...more
D.W. Ulsterman
Yes, the first person narrative at the outset is somewhat unnerving. And there are at times,not too subtle hints from Edmund Morris of his soft disdain for Reagan himself, but in the end, the book does provide an interesting look at one of the most enigmatic political figures of the modern American era.

What is far less enigmatic, if not beyond dispute, is Reagan's love of America, and his significant impact upon its political trajectory long after he left office. Ronald Reagan remains this count...more
Mary Catherine
The author writes with ease and grace which makes the reading experience pleasant. As with most biographies, the reader becomes aware of negative aspects in the subject's character. More often than not, RR was portrayed without an actual moral compass, in this book. Any good that he accomplished was due to wanting attention and creating his persona rather than an authentic desire to do good. Since this idea was so strongly suggested throughout the entire book, I tend to doubt that there is any t...more
Ashley Cobb
I became a fan of Edmund Morris for his trilogy of works about the Life of Theodore Roosevelt. I was pretty excited to get a copy of this book in a used book store pretty cheap. I figured a book written by an author I like about the man I consider to be the greatest president of the 20th century was going to be a great read. I was wrong. The author is "too familiar" with Reagan. On the whole the book does not seem as well researched or as well written as the Roosevelt ones. Mr. Morris's life int...more
Margie
What a boring boring book. I read to senior citizens who are visually impaired. In the group was the former president of our community college. After reading quite a bit, Dr. S said "this author uses words that I have to look up". He was not impressed, and the other folks all voted to quit reading. This author actually had a lot about himself mixed in with Reagan material. Honestly, it stunk. Later, I heard a pompous voice on NPR talking about Reagan, and even though I didn't know who was speaki...more
Frederic
That a man of reserved and gelid Amour Propre should be remembered as the most beloved President of the last century is only one of the mysteries that Edmund Morris plumbs in this very idiosyncratic but interesting biography of the aptly named Great Communicator...ironically,those who seek to claim his mantle today are ignorant of,or choose to forget,his record(as opposed to his rhetoric)as a pragmatic politician who made abortion more available,raised taxes,increased the debt ceiling more than...more
Adrian Carpio
"Why do these printed shapes beneath his moving finger not form themselves into words, as they used to…? Who is this big brown-suited man in the television documentary, saluting and smiling? Why does the light go dim when clouds drift together? Why are “the fellows” so uncooperative at three in the morning when he dresses for an urgent appointment? Why do magnolia blossoms, pristine on the tree, darken when they fall? And what is this pale ceramic object on the sandy floor of his fish tank at Fo...more
Duane
Highly controversial not just for his "fair and balanced" approached to the much revered president but also for the author's literary technique.

The technique of inserting the author into the story in a sort of Dante-esque quality is a little odd for a modern biography. But Morris could be excused because he was given unprecedented access to Reagan while he was running the country. In the later chapters when Morris actually "was there" watching history unfold, he offers an intriguing perspective...more
Brett
As I was too young to remember the Reagan presidency in anything but hazy images, I was interested to read his biography. It was evident that Morris' style would not match those of most Presidential biographies I had read; being more of a semi-factual literary narration than an academic character exposition. To me, it felt that I was reading about Reagan from the perspective of a Californian and not a Washingtonian. As a result, the book more effectively captured the man than explained his accom...more
Vheissu
More than a few reviewers have misunderstood and under-appreciated this "memoir," just as so many, myself in particular, misunderstood and under-appreciated Ronald Reagan. I despised the president and still hold him in contempt for his many gruesome mistakes, not least of which is his responsibility for the unnecessary death of 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut.

Still, Morris' magnificent historical fiction made me altogether more sympathetic toward both the man and the politician, if not a cool-aid swi...more
Seth Johnson
Morris' picture of Reagan is complex and personal. I enjoyed the book most because it deals--in depth--with a subject too recent to have received any coverage in my "history" classes and too distant for my personal memory.

It's clear from the start that Morris has an objectivity problem where "Dutch" is concerned. What's less clear--and, I think, likely evolved over the course of his writing the book--is the nature of his Bias. "Dutch" is as much about Morris' rather one-sided relationship with R...more
Shawn
I set out to find a biography covering all of Ronald Reagan's life. I'm still looking. This work of historical fiction contains biographical elements, but does not have the third-person reporter perspective that you usually find with biography, forcing the reader to guess whether the individual scenarios of the book are fact or fiction.

I also found the tone of this book to be very negative. Nearly every individual in Ronald Reagan's life is described by negative adjectives and even the occasiona...more
April Suter
Listen to this in my car, Kenny enjoyed it also.
I enjoyed listening to the author read his memoir of my favorite
President, a godly man that loved his country. He may have not spent
time with his kids like he should have but I admire his ways he used to protect
his country. My favorite quote: "The law is the law, XXXXX"
Shawn
I was very disappointed with this book because I am a huge fan of Edmund Morris' Theodore Roosevelt trilogy. Not a fan of Reagan in the slightest, I only read this book because I found out Morris wrote it. As he stats in the intro, Morris had to create a character to follow Reagan through his life. Maybe it's because Reagan wasn't that interesting of a character otherwise.
The book glosses over quite a bit - most notably the elections Reagan was involved in. Although I did enjoy how the book didn...more
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For anybody that can remember the Reagan years 3 18 Feb 07, 2013 02:26PM  
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Edmund Morris is a writer best known for his biographies of United States presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Morris received his early education in Kenya after which he attended Rhodes University in South Africa. He worked as an advertising copywriter in London before emigrating to the United States in 1968.
His biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt won the Pulitzer Prize and Natio...more
More about Edmund Morris...
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Rex Colonel Roosevelt Beethoven Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy

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