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The fourth installment of Robert Caro's majestic and sweeping biography of LBJ is a mammoth achievement and ranks favorably with all prior installments.
I stumbled onto the series a couple of years ago after seeing Robert Caro on a television program and began my exploration of the series with "Master of the Senate." Since the first two installments have not been made into audio books yet, I purchased "The Path to Power" & "Means of Ascent" on my Kindle and found both to be riveting.
For those of you who have gone thorough the entire series as I have, you know that LBJ's life contained periodic reversals. This installment chronicles the 3 years he spent in the most desolate wilderness of them all: The vice presidency.
Daniel Webster is reported to have said when the Whig Party offered him the chance to be vice president, "I do not propose to be buried until I am dead." LBJ???after he bungled securing the 1960 nomination and JFK mopped the floor with him???made a different calculation; to friends who wondered why on earth he would trade the second most powerful post in the land (senate majority leader) for the vice presidency he said, "seven of them got to be president without even being elected."
For 3 years LBJ was ignored, insulted, and treated with thinly veiled contempt by the Kennedy group???particularly by Robert F. Kennedy who DETESTED Lyndon Johnson. Newspaper headlines began asking, "Whatever Happened to LBJ?" His genius for legislation went untapped and Kennedy's domestic program was floundering.
Then it happened...
Half the book covers a roughly 7 week period of time. The coverage of the assassination is the summit of "history as thriller" and finds few if any equals.
For conspiracy theory buffs, sorry, but Caro does not give credence to the idea LBJ was involved. Caro has chronicled just about every fault Johnson has from the megalomaniacal to the scatological, but murder isn't one of them.
Grover Gardner, as another reviewer already mentioned, was the only possible choice for this book. He lends it his usual gravity and precision. Why Caro hasn't contracted him to record the first two books in the series, I don't know. "Means of Ascent" was so funny in places I needed a tissue by my side to wipe the tears.
Caro's penchant for exhaustive research has meant that he has taken over 35 years to produce four books. The man is now 75 and he still has all of Johnson's election and Vietnam to cover. Let's hope his health holds out and he finishes the job.
53 of 54 people found this review helpful
This book can stand alone. It covers 1958 to 1964 a most interesting time in our history. It covers in depth the run for the 1960 election and the election of the Kennedy/Johnson ticket. I was surprised at the detailed information provided about the hateful treatment of Johnson by Robert Kennedy. Caro does show the good and bad points of Johnson and the Kennedy's and presents a well document history of the time leading up to during and after the assassination. The six month following the assassination showed Johnson at his best. He was able to use all his skills and depths of contact he had acquired in a life time of polictics to bring the government and this country under control and back to business. His passing of the civil rights act was a great accomplishment that everyone else had failed at since FDR. The book mostly deals with the 40 days after the assassination and the enormous problems Johnson faced. Gardner did a great job with the narration. The book does make me want read all the volumes in this series. The book is long and there was some repeating of information which could have been edited, other than that it is a great book. I could hardly put the book down.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
This is third part of a monumental series charting the life of Lyndon Johnson. LBJ's early impoverished life, that coloured his political beliefs, is briefly alluded to and his time as Senate leader, but the vast majority of the book describes his political life from 1960 to 64 in immense detail. This was a pivotal decade for USA and the World with such events as the Bay of Pigs debacle, the Cuban Missile crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy. The corrosive mutual hatred between LBJ and Robert Kennedy pervades this masterly biography. I'm old enough to remember these events but had forgotten how well LBJ was regarded at the beginning of his presidency as his reputation was later tarnished by the horrors of Vietnam.
Though a very long listen I was gripped throughout by this pacy account of events and players in this pivotal decade in world history.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
An incredible piece of historical writing, based clearly in the evidence and views of individuals who were part of those events. It is all the more evocative for that solid grounding. Caro's work is about the years of LBJ, and how power functions in America. To say that it is an important book is an almost comical understatement, it will be read and used and referenced for years to come.
The audiobook, with a very well chosen narrator, allows you to immerse yourself in this stunning book. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful