Readers may feel that My Life, at 957 pages, is longer than necessary. Careful revision could have reduced it by at least one-third without lessening its impact. Having said this, nevertheless, one must admit that overall the information Bill Clinton provides his readers with such honesty and self-analysis places this book among the valuable historical documents of the twentieth century.
The intermingling of Clinton’s personal life—his relationship with his wife and daughter and with the various other women in his life—with his professional life necessarily colors much of his account. When Hillary Clinton, in her husband’s defense, spoke of a right-wing conspiracy designed to destroy him, many conservatives and some moderates castigated her. Her charges, however, were accurate.
A major player in this neoconservative conspiracy was Ken Starr, who forced Clinton’s trial for impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Clinton shows little malice toward the people he writes about here, but he obviously believes that a special circle of the underworld should be reserved for Ken Starr, who used any tactics he could to discredit the President. Clinton shows how Starr’s attacks on him diverted him from pressing duties of his office. Clinton also demonstrates the duplicity of such people as Newt Gingrich, who, while he appeared supportive, was undercutting Clinton mercilessly.
Overall, My Life makes a significant contribution to literature that focuses on a presidential career played out in uniquely complex and dangerous times. This memoir is warm, more personal than any past presidential memoir, and worthy of close reading and consideration.
Booklist 100, no. 22 (August 1, 2004): 1866.
The New York Review of Books 54, no. 13 (August 12, 2004): 60-64.
The New York Times, June 20, 2004, p. A1.
The New York Times Book Review 153 (July 12, 2004): 1.
Newsweek, July 5, 2004, p. 13.
Publishers Weekly 251 (June 28, 2004): 5-7, 14.
Time 163 (June 28, 2004): 26-39.
The Times Literary Supplement, August 27, 2004, pp. 3-4.