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American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  10,275 ratings  ·  1,423 reviews
On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst Family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbonese Liberation Army. The weird turns that followed in this already sensational take are truly astonishing--the Hearst family tried to secure Patty's release by feeding the people of Oakla ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Doubleday
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Fred Klein @Nina - Did you actually read the book? I'm in the middle of it, and, yes, Toobin does talk about how her weight plummeted. …more@Nina - Did you actually read the book? I'm in the middle of it, and, yes, Toobin does talk about how her weight plummeted. (less)

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Start your review of American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: legal, true-crime
“[A]t each stage of her life, Patricia [Hearst] used the tools at her disposal. She was a straightforward person, and starting on February 4, 1974, she reacted to her challenges in rational ways. Surrounded by passionate, charismatic outlaws who told her that the police were out to kill them all, Patricia joined them in a pact of mutual self-defense; when the police did in fact kill nearly all of them, Patricia hit the road with her comrades to try to escape. Little wonder that in such emotional ...more
Diane S ☔
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember seeing this on the news, Patty Hearst's kidnapping, her picture carrying a gun into the bank as they robbed it and her subsequent capture eighteen months or so later. But, this is all I knew. Never knew what came later, was fairly young and probably more interested in my own life at that point.

Tobin does a fantastic job, explaining the radical undercurrents of the seventies, details about all those in the SLA., never knew they were so small a group. How unprepared the FBI was in deal
Karin Slaughter
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy crap is it just me or are all terrorist cut from the same pathetic loser cloth? It's shocking that some things never changed. Oh and I listened to this on audio. Fantastic reader. Highly recommend. ...more
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
In this brilliantly crafted piece of non-fiction, Toobin explores one of the most sensational events of the 1970s, which commenced with the kidnapping of teenager Patricia Campbell Hearst. In a decade still hungover on the push for counterculture and raging against the Man, the capture and turning of Patty Hearst illuminated how things had changed from the active 1960s, where change through any mean was acceptable. Toobin uses the early portion of the book to lay the groundwork for Hearst kidnap ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went into this slowly, anticipating that it would be interesting for the first few chapters and then bog down in courtroom dreariness in the last half of the book. I need not have worried, as Mr Toobin has managed to hold the reader's interest throughout, even in the stuffy confines of the courtroom.

When you are writing non-fiction tales that present still-living persons in a less than flattering light, it behooves you to do your research. Jeffrey Toobin has researched this thing to death, and
Paul Bryant
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime, politics
There’s only one thing wrong with this brilliant book, the title – yeah, oops. What? Was Jeffrey Toobin attempting to win the coveted “Most Exciting Book with the Dullest Title” award? If so, he did it! The award is his!

This book should have been called Absolute Batshit : The Patty Hearst Saga.

So just to be clear : Jeffrey Toobin gathers together an immense amount of detail but he moves this complicated story along like a bullet train.

I’d vaguely heard of this Patty Hearst/Symbionese Liberation
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5000-books, oct-18
I have always been fascinated by the Patty Hearst story, not only the kidnapping but the aftermath as well. Author Jeffrey Toobin satisfied my many questions with answers, many being quite surprising.
Patty Hearst refused to be interviewed by Toobin yet he gives us a well-researched, comprehensive account of her story.
This really was a wild saga! Toobin's storytelling leaves the reader to wonder whether or not Patty was an actual "urban guerrilla" or a brain-washed rich young woman just trying to
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
3.5 stars. I listened to the audio of American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst. This piece of history is fascinating because following the kidnapping, it is evident that Hearst participated actively in some of the criminal activities of her captors. Toobin’s account of the story focuses on some of the discrepancies between what actually happened while Hearst was held captive on the one hand, and her defence at trial and account of what happened after sh ...more
Aug 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin is a 2016 Doubleday publication.

In 1974, I was too young to understand the constant news coverage of the Patty Hearst kidnapping. I do have memories of the story making headlines for what seemed like forever. But, I honestly had no interest in the debate surrounding her guilt or innocence.

As I got older, I developed a curiosity about the case and hoped to find a book on the subject that would not have an agenda attached to it, or was slanted in some way. I wan
“Seventeen minutes after 9 p.m. on Feb. 4, 1974, two college students, 25-year-old Steven Weed and 19-year-old Patricia Hearst, were having a quiet evening at home when they were surprised by a knock on the door. A woman said she’d backed into Ms. Hearst’s car and asked if she could come in and use their phone. Before the young couple could reply, two armed men barged through the door, demanding money. Mr. Weed said, ‘Take my wallet. Take anything you want.’ They did, they took Ms. Hearst.” – Jo ...more
The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I was twenty-four years old and living in the Bay Area when Patty Hearst was kidnapped. It was without a doubt one of the strangest things to happen during the counter-culture movement of the late sixties – early seventies.

Toobin retells the story of Hearst’s kidnapping and her conversion to an SLA member. He has unusual insight into Hearst’s motives and actions. I believe that his telling of the story and his insights are 100 percent accurate.

Toobin believes she willingly became a member of the
The stupid runs very deep in this story. Patricia Hearst was young and ignorant and self-centered; the revolutionaries were pretty much morons, or delusional at best; the FBI wasn't any too sharp...

The other notable characteristic of the people featured in this book is a marked lack of loyalty. That is, among the SLA there seemed to be cohesion – sort of, for some, sometimes – but Patricia Hearst's erstwhile fiancé Steve Weed seems to have been the weediest and weaseliest of weeds, universally
Lisa B.
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this because I remember very little about Patty Heart’s kidnaping. Mostly that she was kidnaped, the infamous picture of her during the bank robbery, and that after she was caught, her defense was that she was brainwashed. Mr Toobin fills in all the gaps. I am someone who likes details and there is no shortage of that in this book. Not only does he provide us with a lot of information, he makes it interesting and sometimes even funny. I have found this to be the case with his ot ...more
Rene Saller
Three-and-a-half stars. Toobin is a stellar researcher, and American Heiress is well-organized and clearly presented. I found his thesis--that Hearst was always a rational actor, making decisions that supported her own best interests rather than a brainwashed dupe--quite persuasive, too. Hearst, both as Patricia and as "urban guerilla" Tania, remains something of a cipher nonetheless, but this never struck me as a failure of imagination on Toobin's part. Personality is a construct, and personali ...more
A detailed and comprehensive account of the Patty Hearst kidnapping saga. I knew very little about this epic event in history other than people associating her name with Stockholm Syndrome. It is very interesting how events played out, her role in them, and the aftermath. One of the more interesting pieces of the story for me was that actor John Wayne actually sent a letter to President Carter asking for her clemency. He cited the recent Jim Jones tragedy in Ghana and how one man could get 900 p ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Let me tell you the extent of my knowledge of Patty Hearst before I read this book.

I had heard her name and knew that she’d been kidnapped and that “Stockholm syndrome” was a part of the collective consciousness in part because of her. I don’t think I realized that she was a member of the publishing family—if you’d told me, I might have said, “Oh yeah, of course, that makes sense” but I don’t think I’d have been able to tell you that on my own.

And then a question about her came up at this year
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jeffrey Toobin is a go to author for 4-star non fiction. He always does a good job with his story telling and most importantly matching my attention span.

In this Patty Hearst bio, which I was initially reluctant to read but went for it after liking Toobin’s other books, we get a day by day account of the events from her kidnapping through her trial. There are short book ends on her childhood and the decades following her release from prison. I won’t go into the synopsis since it would be a spoil
Had I rated this half way through it would have gotten 3 stars for being a fairly well written rehash a all the other Patty Hearst books, suffering from trying a tad too hard to be objective at the expense of being interesting. After the shootout and through the trial -- Jeffrey Toobin can write trail minutiae like nobody's business -- it picked up significantly.

I enjoyed the author's barely contained amusement at the SLA 'death to the fascist insect' rhetoric and I thought he handled the quest
This is the first book I've read by someone associated with The New Yorker that I did not find to be a dull chore to read. In addition, it fortunately was not a book where the reader ends up being buried alive under the author's research. While Jeffrey Toobin most certainly did his research, he also obviously kept in mind that the telling of the story was as important as researching it. This is a breezy read that never bogs down. Why only three stars? Because I think the author believes what he ...more
“The biggest police gun battle ever to take place on American soil had begun, and it was on live television. —”
― Jeffrey Toobin, American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst

Although I moderately enjoyed this book I did not love it. The subject of Patty Hearst is one that has always fascinated me and I am a big fan of Jeffrey Toobin but I just did not take to this book as much as I thought I would.

One reason for that maybe because I have read so many books
Jill Meyer
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most people who were around in the mid-1970's will remember the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by a hapless band of revolutionary players, the Symbionese Liberation Army. This group, whose main members were - as Jeffrey Toobin puts it in his new book, "American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst" - as differentiated as a fox-hole in a war-time movie. There was the black revolutionary - "Cinque" or Donald DeFreeze - the white revolutionaries - Emily and William ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
Extraordinary rehash of not only one of the greatest crime syndicates of the 1970s but also the headlines and players of pop culture ; these were the years of my early childhood, so young I remember nothing but haze always wondered about our country's history at that time. This was the perfect resource.
Tóobin opens this masterpiece with the kidnapping of the later century-that of Patricia Hearst by the SLA. The SLA had already made themselves known by shooting an Oakland education board member n
Jul 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh you trivia friends of mine (and you know who you are), I got some major ammo out of this book. It's crazy. I lived during all of this. I knew the girl was kidnapped and that she said she was brainwashed. I had no idea it went on as long as it did. I remember the picture. I remember she married her bodyguard. I remember Squeaky Fromme trying to kill Ford, but not Sara Jane Moore just 17 days later. Creepy I know more about the Manson case than this one.

Well, now I know a LOT about this one. I
"You're not going to believe this, but we like her." --Three of Patricia Hearst's abductors, who expected her to be a stuck-up débutante instead of a dope-smoking Berkeley student who had a long-term sexual affair with her high-school teacher

I've been reading lots of 1970s history because I never got much of it in school--I grew up in Massachusetts, so it was all Stamp Act riots and Crispus Attucks and Paul Revere. Toobin does a terrific job explaining who the members of the Symbionese Liberatio
Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is too cheesy to really recommend--Jeffrey Toobin uses groanable forced comparisons/transitions all too often, and is fond of sneering asides about people's failures and faults--but still, if you lived through the late 1970s, this portrait of Patty Hearst (she actually hated when people called her that, preferring Patricia, but because her dad used Patty in the initial press conferences, the diminutive stuck) and her SLA kidnappers (who Toobin clearly finds tedious and bumbling... even thou ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Patty Hearst kidnapping totally dominated the news in the the mid 1970s. The heiress to the dwindling fortune created by William Randolph Hearst, the infamous newspaper owner, is snatched from her apartment by a group (and I use that term loosely) of terrorists(?), the Symbionese Liberation Army and held for ransom. The SLA is a pseudo revolutionary group with no goals or particular purpose which is laughable if it weren't for the kidnapping. Ransom is demanded including the feeding of poor ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a 'nonfiction/biography/true crime' book. I was very young when this happened so this was all fairly new to me.

This felt well researched. The author assembled the testimonies of those involved, letters, newspaper articles, interviews, etc., and laid it out chronologically. I liked this approach. I was truly hooked. I like that the author did a great job in helping the reader understand her, as well as the time in which his takes place.

The FBI hunt for her seemed long and arduous. She be
Did you know that Patricia Hearst did not like Jane Fonda? Jeffrey Toobin must really want us to know this, as he mentions it at least 3 times in his account of Hearst's kidnaping and its aftermath.

There's a lot of interesting information in this book, and some parts are quite readable. Most of the "meat" in Toobin's retelling, however, has been published elsewhere. He provides selected endnotes by chapter that are not (at least not in the Kindle version) linked to actual text, so it's sometime
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Patty Hearst, I had no idea. Until recently, my Hearst knowledge was a notch above nil. A blank response to a pop-culture question about an event that went down when I was a fetus. She was a single image from a surveillance camera -- the bank robbery incident in California when she went from kidnapped heiress to hey-huh-what-now status. Hearst, part of the publishing family, was kidnapped from her home in the mid-1970s by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army who were, reportedly, looking to ...more
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
American Heiress is not just about Patricia Hearst's kidnapping. It's about the group of people who perpetrated this crime. It's about the state of the United States in the years surrounding 1974. It's not the most fascinating historical book I've ever read, but it absolutely pulled me right along.

I was just ten years old when Hearst was kidnapped, and I thought my lack of clarity about these events was my own faulty youthful memory. But as I read this book, I understood that events were manipul
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SCPL Online NonFi...: Patricia Hearst 2 14 Nov 01, 2017 06:41PM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: Crime and Punishment 1 4 Oct 31, 2017 07:18PM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: Stockholm Syndrome? 1 8 Oct 27, 2017 06:58PM  
Impressions of Patricia Hearst 1 16 Oct 21, 2017 09:39PM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: The SLA 3 8 Oct 21, 2017 05:45PM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: Had You Heard? 3 6 Oct 12, 2017 05:13PM  

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Jeffrey Ross Toobin (J.D., Harvard Law School, 1986; B.A., American History and Literature, Harvard University) is a lawyer, blogger, and media legal correspondent for CNN and formerly The New Yorker magazine. He previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Brooklyn, New York, and later worked as a legal analyst for ABC News, where he received a 2001 Emmy Award for his coverage of t ...more

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“In the end, notwithstanding a surreal detour in the 1970s, Patricia led the life she for which she was destined back in Hillsborough. The story of Patricia Hearst, as extraordinary as it once was, had a familiar, even predictable ending. She did not turn into a revolutionary. She turned into her mother.” 4 likes
“The biggest police gun battle ever to take place on American soil had begun, and it was on live television. —” 2 likes
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