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Review: A Promised Land, by Barack Obama*

Even out of office Donald Trump still steals the headlines, unrepentantly convinced that his opponent stole his votes.  Impeached not once but twice, Trump, rather like Banquo’s ghost, seems almost to haunt Barack Obama’s first volume of presidential memoirs. The book starts with his childhood, describes the first 2½ years of life in the White House and ends with the tracking down and assassination of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. The pace is fast and furious.

My first memory of Obama was ‘Yes we can’ resounding across our TV screens in the presidential campaign leading to his election way back in November 2008.  His journey to becoming leader of the free world, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and first black President of the USA, is fascinating. With a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas, the story of Barack’s early years as child, teenager, student, lawyer and aspiring politician proceeds with pace. His venture into the Illinois State Senate, and then the US Senate, within little more than 2 years as President elect, mark not simply his meteoric rise but also how that combination of luck and timing was so very much on his side. Moving too is the portrayal of Michelle always at his side, supporting yet challenging, as they as a family with two young daughters live in the White House under the glare of the media spotlight.

The book is a bit too wordy in my view, as we move around the seats of global capitals and encounter the power brokers of our world. Obama offers delightful one liners, quips if you prefer, about our own political leaders such as Gordon Brown and David Cameron which are there to be savoured.  Less savoury but more sobering are the descriptions of ‘this is where the buck stops’ and the loneliness of being commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation in the world. There are no ghosts as the author, having served his two terms as President, reflects on his legacy.

It is a good read albeit long at 700 pages. Its hard back starting price was a bit expensive too at £35, but then that’s precisely why we have our very own local library.

* We have ‘A Promised Land’ in the library.