Why jump into a mammoth, 32 hour read, volume 4 of a projected 5, in progress before many of us were born and volume 5 due some years from now?Two answers - for a first look, it stands alone, riveting, full of the story-teller's perfect details and timing.If you thought you'd read all the good stuff, Caro read it and cross-checked and then interviewed the author or surviving player with the questions you might have asked.History and biography can meet and exceed the best fiction, if only because reality is stranger, wilder and harder to freeze into safe, comfort.The non-LBJ characters are vivid, detailed, memorable, quoted and described by the distilled insight of libraries of books, letters and interviews. Myself, I've wondered about Bobby Kennedy, studied under fellows who worked with him, idolized and loved him. Caro shows us that great gift for friendship, and how it shaped written history, but adds the dark side with light, shadow and colors. The JFK portrait alone is worth the read, with the JFK-RFK relationship drawn from anecdotes. Found myself seeing new parts of a president by fully imagining what RFK the hit man, lightning rod and alter ego must say about JFK off-stage giving orders, or onstage communicating with his brother without words.Notes on framing - Caro writes that he found no direct evidence for the "LBJ murdered JFK" theories, and you can read the reviews at Amazon.com for some pointers by opposing authors and readers.A better path into what-if questions, IMHO, is "Tears of Autumn" by espionage expert McCarry, with an Oswald portrait by Stephen King in his recent time travel novel.
And Vietnam is mostly left for volume 5 - but I found eery parallels between RFK and LBJ losing all control, dignity, RFK defending the Bay of Pigs and firing an advisor who'd proven right, and LBJ chewing-out senior military men posing too-hard choices.
Hilary Mantel makes every detail of the Tudor soap opera brand new, immediate and "can't stop listening" powerful.
Her present-tense prose works better read-aloud, at least with so fine a reader.
Cromwell as villain is nuanced by a detailed imagining of his life, his memories, his musings late at night, and even imagining a detained suspect locked, in the dark in the family Christmas closet (puts light on similar stories about More locking heretics in his basement for easier interrogation).
Okay, there will be a volume 3 for sure, or even a volume per wife, but boat loads of us will be waiting for them.
Most of us met Shelby Foote as a narrator for the Burns PBS Civil War documentary. Myself, the Audible version of Foote's Civil War is an old friend I come back to again and again. Catton's books were a memory, maybe with Camelot or doo-wop sound track.
The two complement so well that I am guessing Foote planned it that way.
Catton goes into greater depth here, setting a narrative, political frame and asking, telling us just how we ended up shooting for four years and terrible battles that can almost overflow memory.
As a rule, Catton will emphasize strategy with quotes and description - he has a dialog after Sharpsburg/Antietam that may out-Shelby Mr Foote.
I think I will now audit and re-audit Catton and Foote, if only because we may yet again be running out of compromises.
It helps that the author reads his book, but his viewpoint and his character outshine even a rollicking good read about SEAL training, Mother Theresa, Oxford, the Bosnian and Ruanda genocides, and special ops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Found myself looking for anything and everything else by or about this fellow.
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