I've always thought that "Cardinal" was the most interesting of Clancy's Jack Ryan books. And in terms of the quality of the story, I enjoyed the unabridged version of this story even more than the abridgment that I bought many years ago. It felt like I was getting "bonus material" beyond the original version of the story that I knew. I've been waiting for a long time to see unabridged Audible versions of some of the Jack Ryan novels.
As far as the reading of the story was concerned, I was less impressed. Perhaps it's unfair to rate Michael Prichard's read when matched up against the masterful performance of the abridged version by David Ogden Stiers. Nonetheless, I did feel at times like the soul of this often-soulful story was drained in Prichard's read. In certain passages, such as the pivotal conversation between Felitov and his KGB interrogator, I sorely missed the intensity and well-defined character sense of David Ogden Stiers' performance of the dialog. Don't get me wrong-- Prichard is a fine reader of nonfiction. But a book like "Cardinal" loses a lot when it is read like the evening news instead of the emotional human drama that it is.
On the whole, I enjoyed this book. The author provides a comprehensive insight into the mind of Lyndon Johnson-- his methods, motivations, insecurities, and conflicts. I especially liked the epilogue, in which she describes the nature of the various institutions in which Johnson functioned throughout his career-- the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Vice Presidency, and the Presidency-- and how Johnson was able to function, to varying degrees of success, within each institutional setting. This fascinating, though perhaps a touch too psychoanalytical, analysis leads the reader naturally to the conclusion that Johnson (and probably the country) would have been much happier and more productive had he stayed in the Senate.
One area in which I have to fault the book is in the uneven level of attention paid to different areas. For example, there is almost no discussion at all of Johnson's acceptance of the VP candidacy in 1960, and even less of Johnson's participation the 1960 general election campaign itself. I imagine the author would say that this was because Johnson did not have much of a role, but we do not learn anything about Johnson's thoughts or actions during this period. This is especially surprising, given the fact that we are treated in several other places to lengthy, "let's step over to the blackboard for a while" dissertations on the institutional, cultural, historical, and psychological influences governing Johnson's actions at other times during his career. I appreciate that the author has dug deeply to explain Vietnam, civil rights, and the Great Society, but I think the whole ground should be covered to at least a minimal depth.
On the whole, though, I think this is a good book that provides an excellent understanding of Johnson and his times.
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