The Butler

  • by Wil Haygood
  • Narrated by Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Lee Daniels
  • 2 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The story that inspired the major motion picture...read by its stars David Oyelowo, Forest Whitaker, and Oprah Winfrey
When acclaimed Washington Post writer Wil Haygood had an early hunch that Obama would win the 2008 election, he thought he'd highlight the singular moment by exploring the life of someone who had come of age when segregation was so embedded in the culture as to make the very thought of a black president inconceivable. He struck gold when he tracked down Eugene Allen, a butler who had served eight presidents, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan.
Forest Whitaker narrates the story of this remarkable man who, while serving tea and supervising buffets, was also a witness to history as decisions about America's most momentous events were being made.
With a foreword by the Academy Award-nominated director Lee Daniels, The Butler also includes Wil Haygood's essay exploring the history of black images on celluloid and in Hollywood, read here by David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Well Served by this Book

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected to his first term as President. Three days later, I read a nice piece in the Washington Post by Wil Haygood. "A Butler Well Served by this Election" was the too brief story of Eugene Allen, a Black butler who served eight presidents, retiring during the Reagan administration. Later, watching the inaugural on television, the camera panned to Allen, and a commentator mentioned he was there as a special guest of the President's. Allen must have had interesting stories, but he was discrete and I thought they had died with him in 2010.

I was thrilled to find "The Butler: A Witness to History" (2013) at the top of the Audible crawl. "Wow," I thought. "A story I always wanted to hear more of, and one of the narrators is Forest Whitaker!" I like his voice so much I'd listen to him reading a refrigerator repair manual. It was the fastest Audible purchase I've made, and I don't regret it.

I thought I would be listening to a lengthier biography of Allen, or perhaps a novelization of the movie, but "The Butler" book is really a companion to the movie. According to this book, the movie "The Butler" is partially fictionalized, and a dramatic conflict was created between Allen and a radicalized son. This book first discusses how Haygood came up with the original story idea, and his lovely interviews with Allen and his wife, Helene. The book discusses Allen's relationships with the presidents he served, but briefly -it's a short book. It also discusses the tragedy Allen honored to vote for Obama, and then his physical struggle to attend the inauguration.

There's also a section on the difficulty bringing "The Butler" to the screen. Oprah Winfrey discusses the history of Blacks in film, as actors, directors and producers. I am familiar with all of the actors she mentioned, but the directors in the 1920's and 30's were new to me.

I'm giving the book a story rating of "3" because, as an Audible, it wandered. I wasn't always sure what point was being raised.

[If you found this review helpful, please let me know by clicking 'helpful'.]
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- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""

Not what I expected!... in a bad way.

I like to read books before the movies come out, so when I saw that there was a “Butler” book I snatched it up.

I’m disappointed because it turns out that this is not the story of the Butler, but rather the story of the Movie! Did the publisher’s summary say so and I missed the warning? It was just advertizing for the film.

I prefer these kinds of thing as special features in a DVD; I regret this purchase.
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- Simone "Follow me on Goodreads too!"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-30-2013
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio