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Watergate by Thomas Mallon
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Watergate (2012)

by Thomas Mallon

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I really wanted to like this book (a fictionalization of the watergate scandal). I love the watergate story and know a pretty good deal about it. My friend and I have dressed up as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward for two separate costume parties. We've visited many watergate related sites in dc. But this just made me want to reread all the president's men. It was clear that the author had extensive knowledge of not only watergate but the histories of each person and of the time period. So much so that he seemed determined to exhaustively show off this knowledge at the expense of a good, forward moving plot (even though you'd think you'd have a perfectly good one already built in). Also if I knew less about watergate, this book would have made absolutely no sense to me.

I should also add that I was so determined to liked this book that I stayed up until 3 reading it, got halfway through and decided I'd given it the benefit of the doubt and could stop. My general fatigue is not making this the best written review in the world.

It gets two stars because it was so historically accurate. ( )
  Abbey_Harlow | Oct 5, 2017 |
One would think that there is nothing new to say about the Watergate scandal, now ancient history to most Americans, but Thomas Mallon’s historical novel proves this point wrong by a considerable margin. His book, WATERGATE, is an utterly enthralling look back at events and a Presidency that altered American history forever, from some never before considered perspectives. Mallon’s book is a reimagining of the scandal, told from the view of many characters, all principle players to some extent in the scandal. I think the genius of the book is that Mallon creates fictional versions of Nixon and his people which seem totally real, they live and breathe and rage and hurt, all while feeling utter dismay that things have taken such a turn.

Mallon’s book is not a particularly long one and the narrative flows smoothly from one character to the next; this is not a “and then this happened” retelling of historical events, it does help if the reader has at least a working knowledge of the scandal and who was who and where they were at certain points in the story. Those unfamiliar with history may have to do a lot of wiki-ing before they reach the last page, but Mallon does provide a list of players at the beginning of his book that helps a lot.

What I found so striking about WATERGATE was Mallon’s sympathetic portrait of so many characters who have been written off as villains or worse, fools, by most historical accounts; he does not apologize for their actions or carry water like so many of the “Nixon didn’t do anything wrong” bitter enders, but lets us see them as they, perhaps, saw themselves. It is a refreshing take; one thankfully free of the snark and irony so prevalent in much contemporary political fiction.

In the pages of Mallon’s book, we meet a flawed Richard Nixon who lives in perpetual fear that his many, many enemies will yet find a way to bring him down, a fear that infected his White House and all who were part of his inner circle. There is a fascinating portrait of Pat Nixon, the woman who was always so reserved in public, never letting her mask slip, yet capable of surprising secrets in private. There is John and Martha Mitchell, an incredible mismatch of a marriage, one that crumbled under the weight of revelations of his criminal activities as head of Nixon’s re-election campaign. Equally memorable is Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s long time and ever loyal secretary, the person responsible of the infamous 18 ½ minute gap on one Nixon’s incriminating tapes. Mallon comes up with a surprising and poignant explanation for this act and what was on the tape, one of the enduring mysteries of the 20th Century. Another interesting relationship explored is the marriage of outward tough guy E. Howard Hunt and his formidable wife, Dorothy, who skillfully negotiated with the men in the Nixon White House to get hush money for her family after her husband’s arrest for his role in the break in. Every reader’s favorite is Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of Theodore and Washington’s long time Grande Dame, who sees through everyone, yet holds a deep affection for Richard Nixon, whose act of kindness in an hour of need is not forgotten. Mallon does an exceptional job with his women characters, making them every bit as compelling as the men who were on the front pages.

Much space is given to Fred LaRue, the genial Southerner who became the White House’s bagman after the Watergate break in; in Mallon’s hands, this relativity minor character in history, takes front and center often in the narrative. Like many of the others involved in Watergate, LaRue simply cannot understand how his life, which was on such a successful trajectory, has taken such a wrong turn, but is helpless in the face of impending disaster as one illegal act and lie leads to another with the inevitable set down with the Federal Attorney waiting at the end. Like most of the characters in Mallon’s book, LaRue suppresses a private pain they would never dare show in public; only a brief reunion with long ago love offers him any solace as the firestorm engulfs the Nixon Administration.

If there is a real villain in this book, it is the fatuous Elliot Richardson, who thinks he will walk over Richard Nixon’s political corpse to the Oval Office.

I would never claim that Mallon’s book is history, there is plenty in the historical record that condemns Nixon and his crew as the most corrupt, venal and downright mean group of characters to ever hold power in America (and I include Donald Trump in that judgment), but as historical fiction, the book is of the highest order, making us see very familiar history in a different light. I am a self published author of two alternate history novels, both featuring a fictional Nixon among others, and I fully respect the hard work and attention to detail Thomas Mallon must have put in to write this book. All readers of good fiction should seek it ( )
  wb4ever1 | Mar 23, 2017 |
I guess you could call this historical fiction. It is a fictionalized retelling of the Watergate scandal, from the break-in of the Democratic Campaign Headquarters to the resignation of Richard Nixon from the presidency. The story is told from several unusual points of view, including Fred LaRue (the "bagman"--he distributed the hush money for the burglars to ensure their silence), E. Howard Hunt (the Republican aide in charge of the burglary, ex-CIA agent, and the link to the White House), Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Pat Nixon, Rosemary Woods, and others. All the larger than life characters are there: the out-of-control Martha Mitchell, the dour Henry Kissinger, the stern H.R. Haldeman. Each of the characters becomes human, and even Nixon is rather sympathetically portrayed. Unlike her public persona as "Plastic Pat", Pat Nixon is developed as a warm and loving woman, who incidentally is carrying on an affair. (This is one element that Mallon in the afterword points out was entirely made up by him.)

This entire novel--more fact than fiction--is entirely believable and despite the scandal's horror and tragedy at the time, the novel is strangely entertaining. It is plotted like an intricate thriller, moving seamlessly from one point of view character to the next. When Mallon fills in the blanks he comes up with entirely plausible theories and details. One caveat I have is that the novel assumes some background knowledge on the part of the reader, or at least a passing familiarity with the gist of the scandal. And, if you have a decent grasp of the facts, either from living through the scandal (as I did, spending the summer enthralled with the Watergate hearings), or from reading, it would seem to me that the novel would be so much more rewarding. For example, knowing how stunning the discovery of the 18 minute gap on the tapes (or even how stunning the discovery that Nixon secretly taped everything said in his office) would enhance a reader's appreciation of the explanation Mallon imagines for that erasure.

Highly recommended. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Sep 30, 2015 |
My expectation for the book was different than what the book provided so my review and rating are partially based on the fact that I expected black humor, and while there was some, that was not the focus or intention of the book as a whole.

Watergate was a topic of conversation and argument in my household. Nightly the news would rehash the latest details of the affair and discuss the idea of the president's impeachment. Talk shows and current affairs shows spent hours debating every angle and all the players involved.

My take on historical fiction is that it should illuminate an event or an idea, weaving a fictional tale within the facts and then at the end, it stimulates the reader to want to find out more. If I was a reader a generation removed from these events, I would find it difficult from this novel to figure out what had happened.

I was not as emotionally impacted by the book as I had hoped to be. Watergate and the president's resignation was a very emotionally affecting event. The book made it seem almost insignificant. The other thing that would muddy the water for a reader without context would be the lack of viewpoint provided by most of the major players.

Hen and story of Alice Longworth Roosevelt, Pat Nixon and Rose Woods. Alice provided the long view of history. She had spent time in the White House as a child of a President and a cousin of a President and through her memories was able to put the events into am historical context and human context. Her narration was also valuable as a Washington insider.

Pat Nixon was wonderful. You got the sense of her strength in the face of adversity and her role in bringing out the positive traits that Nixon had to offer while not short changing herself. The story of her affair was well told and really jived with the character as written. Her views on her daughters was also fascinating and in line with what I have read about them as well.

Rose Woods was the most interesting and well rounded of all. Her loyalty as an employee and friend; her faithfulness to the man as opposed to the job or office; and finally, the idea that perhaps the tape was erased due to Rose being pissed off at am insult taped in the Oval Office, had the ring of truth making the fiction seem less so.

This book is worth the time but I would suggest that if you don't have a background idea of what went on, you might miss the true emotional impact and importance of the events the book discusses. ( )
  ozzieslim | Dec 28, 2014 |
I really wanted to like this book (a fictionalization of the watergate scandal). I love the watergate story and know a pretty good deal about it. My friend and I have dressed up as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward for two separate costume parties. We've visited many watergate related sites in dc. But this just made me want to reread all the president's men. It was clear that the author had extensive knowledge of not only watergate but the histories of each person and of the time period. So much so that he seemed determined to exhaustively show off this knowledge at the expense of a good, forward moving plot (even though you'd think you'd have a perfectly good one already built in). Also if I knew less about watergate, this book would have made absolutely no sense to me.

I should also add that I was so determined to liked this book that I stayed up until 3 reading it, got halfway through and decided I'd given it the benefit of the doubt and could stop. My general fatigue is not making this the best written review in the world.

It gets two stars because it was so historically accurate. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
A sure winner, for its subject and Mallon's proven track record as a historical novelist, and because it's good.
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, David Keymer (Oct 15, 2011)
 
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A retelling of the Watergate scandal, as seen through a kaleidoscope of its colorful perpetrators and investigators.

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