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Publisher's Summary

In November 2008, Hillary Clinton agreed to work for her former rival. As President Barack Obama's secretary of state, she set out to repair America's image around the world - and her own. For the following four years, BBC foreign correspondent Kim Ghattas had unparalleled access to Clinton and her entourage, and she weaves a fast-paced, gripping account of life on the road with Clinton in The Secretary.

With the perspective of one who is both an insider and an outsider, Ghattas draws on extensive interviews with Clinton, administration officials, and players in Washington as well as overseas, to paint an intimate and candid portrait of one of the most powerful global politicians. Filled with fresh insights, The Secretary provides a captivating analysis of Clinton's brand of diplomacy and the Obama administration's efforts to redefine American power in the twenty-first century.

Populated with a cast of real-life characters, The Secretary tells the story of Clinton's transformation from popular but polarizing politician to America's envoy to the world in compelling detail and with all the tension of high stakes diplomacy. From her evolving relationship with President Obama to the drama of WikiLeaks and the turmoil of the Arab Spring, we see Clinton cheerfully boarding her plane at three in the morning after no sleep, reading the riot act to the Chinese, and going through her diplomatic checklist before signing on to war in Libya-all the while trying to restore American leadership in a rapidly changing world.

Viewed through Ghattas's vantage point as a half-Dutch, half-Lebanese citizen who grew up in the crossfire of the Lebanese civil war, The Secretary is also the author's own journey as she seeks to answer the questions that haunted her childhood. How powerful is America really? And, if it is in decline, who or what will replace it and what will it mean for America and the world?

©2013 Kim Ghattas (P)2013 Tantor

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Never got to the heart...

...unless the author is using this as a metaphor, saying that Hillary Clinton has such a heart...I don't know; I'm confused.

A more fitting title may have been THE BBC CORRESPONDENT: flights with Hillary Clinton. The title, as is, seems misleading, adding to my confusion--and I'm blaming the author. With her childhood recollections of growing up in war torn Lebanon (and her subsequent disappointment in America) sandwiched between information we already know regarding Clinton's political trips, and banal info about the condition of the plane, the food, the bad schedules, Clinton's cheerful group sits, her toe nail polish choices...Ghattas didn't seem to have a clear flight plan, so to speak. I wasn't expecting to hear so much about Ghattas and her views on America's decline in power and popularity, and so little about Clinton's views on the heart of American Power. (That decline aspect would have been an interesting book providing the premise was well supported and not just Ghattas' opinion.)

I'd like to have heard about Clinton's milestones during her time as the Secretary of State; what were her initial goals and what she felt she accomplished; what did she see as the biggest deterrents to achieving the priorities she had; her experience with No. Korea, and her opinions of where the current situation there is going; and I'd like to have had an *inside look" at her assessment of Obama; how she developed a relationship with her opponent; her plans for the future...I could come up with a whole legal pad list of things I'd like to have learned from this book--and not one of them would have been the color of Clinton's toenails, (something I'd expect to be left to Barbara Walters as additional ammunition to besmirch the office of the Secretary of State). There was nothing of substance (new), especially when held up to a current portrait of America, or even the possible America of the future. Anything of political importance, we've read already; anything that may have been an *insider-only look* at Clinton... can be summed up in the first 6 letters of the word Secretary (still). I still haven't figured out exactly the intention of this book . It was at times interesting, Ghattas perspective was fresh, and it was a harmless 2 1/2 star listen. (And I'd love to read a review on this by Hillary Clinton.)

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 03-31-13

Informative & enlightening book

If you are looking for a scholarly biography of Hillary Clinton this in not the book. This is a story of a BBC foreign correspondent who was attached to the State Department (U.S.). She has an office in the press section at the Harry Truman building in Washington and flies every where with Clinton on the Secretary's plane. Kim Ghattas was born in Lebanon (half Lebanese/Dutch) during the civil war and the occupation by Syria. She grew up wondering why the U.S. didn't help them. Kim provides a thoughtful commentary of the varied trips, with insight brought from her own life while growing up in Lebanon during the civil war. I found it interesting to have behind the scene look at what the travelling group of reporters face during trips such as, unexpected changes in itinerary, running out of food, no place to sleep, sudden changes in weather etc. It is also interesting that Clinton and her staff faced many of the same problems. It was apparent that Ghattas admired Clinton but that did not stop her from covering mistakes made by Clinton. Ghattas makes it clear from the beginning with an interview with Clinton what the goal of her term as Secretary of State was. To rebuild American relationships with all countries and improve the image of America. She set off on trips to visit heads of states but unlike other Secretaries she went out to meet the people of the country and held town hall meeting with students, and women. She answered all questions and "listened" to what the had to say. I really liked her response to complaints by the Pakistan student who complained America was controlling them by giving them money. She told him they did not have to take the money. That set them back a bit and they had no response to that. In the book she faced many challenges such as China, Israel/Palestine and Netanyahu; sinking of South Korean naval corvette Cheonan by North Korea, Wiki-leaks (that causes enormous work by Clinton and her staff detailed in the book) Arab Spring (Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria), Japanese Fukushima reactor melt down. In her interviews with Clinton Ghattas said Clinton was implementing "Smart diplomacy" and this had not been tried before. The book shows the dedication and hard work of the thousands of people in our diplomatic corp around the world. It also demonstrated from an inside view how hard the staff around Clinton work so she could have all the latest information and taking care of every minute of every day of her work life. The key item in the book is that the view point is from an outsider looking in at America, she provides comments and insight into the feelings and view points of the people Clinton visited that an American would not have. Makes it interesting indeed. The test of all her work with China came to ahead with the blind lawyer seeking asylum in the U.S. Clinton handled it quietly and expertly so relationship with China was not effected and human rights applied. Kate Reading did a good job narrating the book Regardless of your personal or political opinion of Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration or America's current military involvement this book is worth reading on several levels. .

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Too Long and Too detailed

Would you try another book from Kim Ghattas and/or Kate Reading?

Not in the near future

What did you like best about this story?

The insights into starting out in such a demanding position.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Did not like the drone of the narrator. Liked some of the intimate details about being in Hillaryland.

Do you think The Secretary needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bulldogscm
  • Burlington, Vermont, United States
  • 07-08-13

Was Looking for Something Different

I truly wanted to like this book. Kate Reading did a great job performing the text but the text itself was fairly poor. I felt that this book focused more on Ghattas than about Clinton.I was looking for something more about Clinton's focus on policy and her relationship(s) within the State Department, the White House and across the world. Instead, I felt that the book was more about Ghettas and her experiences and Clinton was more of a backdrop and convenient cover to promote herself by using her close proximity to Clinton as a BBC Reporter. Towards the end of the audiobook, I was really looking for it to end.

If Ghattas focused more on the actual foreign policy and on Clinton herself then I would have enjoyed this audiobook much more.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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What a fascinating perspective

I've always admired Hillary Clinton and was interested in hearing about her role as Secretary of State. The story was told from the perspective of the Lebanese-born journalist, Kim Ghattas. Because of Ms. Ghattas' background, the story was even more interesting. The detailed narrations of world events over the last few years was memorable -- and the insights into Hillary's role in these events makes my respect for her soar. The author yearned for more than 20 years to understand the role of the United States in the Lebanon/Syrian war. Yet, she glosses over the final chapter in Hillary's role as Secretary of State: Libya. The families of those who were killed in Libya and the rest of us caring Americans will agonize for the rest of our lives over actions that could have been taken to prevent their deaths. Had Ms. Ghattas spoken honestly about this unfortunate episode, I would have given her a 5++ for the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Geraldine
  • Royal Oak, MI, United States
  • 04-12-13

Enlightening and Powerful

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is such an important book, as it skillfully interweaves the author's autobiographical account of middle east events, a detailed history of the region and its players, as well as educating us about the complex interconnections between middle eastern countries and their relationships with the U.S. Gives us a true appreciation of Hillary Clinton, her superior job as Secretary of State, and her importance in world history.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

After hearing the "bonus" interview of the author at the end of the narration, realized how similar the narrator's voice was to the author's. Enjoyed this added dimension to the narration. Also liked the change in character and voices throughout the book.

Which character – as performed by Kate Reading – was your favorite?

The author herself, as well as Hillary's voice (which was sometimes humorous!).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Insight on Hillary Clinton

If you could sum up The Secretary in three words, what would they be?

Interesting insight

Would you be willing to try another book from Kim Ghattas? Why or why not?

Definitely, I enjoyed her non-biased account and excellent thoughts and writing skills.

Which scene was your favorite?

Description of how she viewed Hillary Clinton's behavior / thoughts on what Clinton wanted to achieve as Secretary of State

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, it did; however, change my view of Clinton's attempts to be successful in her role as Secretary of State. Not that I would vote for her but I see Clinton as less of an evil dictator type of politician.

Any additional comments?

None

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Unbiased narrative

Equally liked the narrators reading and content.
The content was truly fascinating.
Highly recommend to modern history buffs interested in international relations

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A nuanced insider / outsider perspective

I found this audiobook fascinating: It reinforced for me that not only are politics local, they're personal as well. It's not possible to successfully negotiate with another party (whether it be an individual or a country's ambassador) without truly listening to the other party and sincerely responding to their concerns... Kim Ghattas's book indicates Hillary Clinton understood this need as Secretary of State.

Ghattas provides a unique insider / outsider perspective as a BBC correspondent who grew up in Lebanon and became part of the press contingent accompanying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton around the globe. Ghattas contrasted her perspective as a child growing up in war-torn Lebanon against insights she gained by speaking "on background" with Clinton and other U.S. officials, and how she began to realize that foreign policy frequently engendered difficult decisions not lightly made nor easily executed. Clinton is an interesting public figure but Ghattas's insider / outsider perspective makes this book even more interesting and nuanced. Kate Reading's narration was enjoyable and she easily transitioned from the author's perspective to voicing Hillary's broad midwestern accent. I enjoyed this audiobook and recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about U.S. foreign policy during Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State.

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Worst book I have listened to

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

No one
Author has no talent. She was a minor player on Hillary's team. Was not privy to any real meetings. Why did she think she could tell a story about what she did not know about.

What could Kim Ghattas have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Not write it

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Nothing

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment

Any additional comments?

Kour book club chose it, so I read it.other wise I would have turned the audio off and called it you win some you lose some

2 of 6 people found this review helpful

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