This is a must-listen if you want to understand America in the era between 1870 and the early 1930s - rural New England agrarian life, college in that era, the simplicity of transportation, politics, the rise of labor unions, immigration controversy, back-room politicking, the growth of means of communication and flight and the pressures of the presidency. I listened intently - even increasing the speed slightly to absorb the material more quickly - and probably will relisten in a year or two to reinforce the information.
The author is a master storyteller. She brings the reader into Coolidge's mind as he faces the challenges of a politician - state legislator, state senator, governor, VP and president - during the first three decades of the 20th century. We understand why he stood up against the striking Boston Police Department and the undercurrent of radicalism in union activity, we appreciate why he made the political moves that he made when he made them and we appreciate the challenges that he faced as president.
The memories that I'll retain most are the descriptions of the multiple meetings between President Coolidge and General Lord, as they pore over the budget, eliminating trivial items and finding less costly alternatives that save a million dollars here or $50,000 there. Coolidge respected the people's money and saw himself as its steward in a way that no modern politician of either party emulates. Today, politicians of both parties throw around a hundred billion dollars like it's money falling from heaven. Coolidge tossed quarters like they were manhole covers.
I appreciated the description of the strain that the presidency and personal losses (the Colonel, Calvin Jr.) placed on the Coolidge marraige, and how the President tried to repair it in the later stages of his term, when the strain was greatest. The strain appears to have repaired itself fairly quickly after the weight of the presidency - the President's obligations and time commitments, which prevented his participation in many activities, including John's graduations - were lifted and the couple returned to Northampton.
High school and college students rarely learn much history between the end of the War of Northern Aggression and the beginning of the Second World War. I'm making a conscious effort (aided largely by audible.com) to learn more about this era - from "The President is a Sick Man" to "The Destiny of the Republic" and "The President and the Assassin" - and soon "The Bully Pulpit" or "The River of Doubt." These biographies all deliver an excellent description of the United States during my great-great-grandfather's lifetime.
I really enjoyed my first Iles book. Kidnapping plots generally follow a common script. This one was very different - kidnappers as businessmen, very dispassionate, we'll thought-out business plan. It had me guessing and reguessing what would happen next. My lone criticism: the plot was a a bit surreal toward the end - not totally unbelievable (like the end of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons with the most unlikely chopper pilot), but it stretched the limits of plausibility.
This book is excellent. The author really gets into the minds of pirates, their sponsors and their villages. Gives a great understanding of what might motivate these thieves on the high seas. Also, the activities on two continents merge nicely.
I couldn't put this book down. I knew from the beginning how it would end at a high level (common with most books), but this one unfolded differently from what I had imagined. This book kept me up @ night listening and accompanied me on several long walks as it kept my attention. Not once did I think that the author was filling a word quota or writing just to amuse himself. Every description and every incident fed into the plot.
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