Martha's Reviews > Watergate

Watergate by Thomas Mallon
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's review
Apr 12, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, fiction, us-history, reviews
Read from March 28 to April 11, 2012

Good historical fiction. Mallon's a good writer; I'll certainly read more of him. As good fiction, it's character driven rather than event driven like a news report--and it's the characters in orbit, so to speak, around the central actors who are the stars. He gets you to see everyone's humanity, and anyone who can get you to see Richard Nixon's humanity is a good writer.

If you lived through it in the US, the book is a nostalgia trip--how we used to rush home from work and gather at my boss's house every evening to watch the hearings. The constant uproar, the nearly daily bombshells, the tapes, the Saturday night massacre. Wasn't that a time! Names I hadn't thought of in 35 years--good thing there's an almost complete cast list at the front.

Historical fiction is hard though, esp about something so recent. There are a couple of fictional characters, who are clearly identified in the list at the front. But so you keep asking yourself, is this what really happened or is he embellishing? And Watergate was so complicated and involved so many people, you really have to go to Wikipedia and brush up esp if you weren't there b/c Mallon doesn't take you through the events. He refers to them and shows people's reactions. Some characters who were central never actually show up in the book--they're just referred to, so it's not always clear what's going on.

Other readers have noted Mallon's sympathetic portrayal of the women. The book's worth reading just for the portraits of Pat Nixon, Rose Mary Woods, and the inimitable Alice Roosevelt Longworth. So fascinating that she retained such an important place in the Republican party throughout her life.

Some touches are gripping. The crowd standing along the bank of the Potomac just watching in silence as the Presidential yacht full of the disgraced folks who were supposed to be running the country sails by for the last time before Nixon resigns. It's a good book, worth reading.

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