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I confess that I grew up during a time where the mention of Truman either caused eye rolling sneers or tight lipped stoney looks. I have always heard the FDR story from Roosevelt's perspective...with Eleanor treating Truman as an imbecile in need of serious help. It was fascinating to hear the same events from Truman's perspective. Rather than being a "complete dope" I found Truman to be hard working, honest and honorable. A solid public servant--upbeat and positive even when things didn't go well or the way he hoped they would.
The best part of this 54+hour listen was that while telling Truman's life story McCullough also told the story of pioneer America. Tracing Truman's ancestors and early life highlighted the settlement of the "frontier". This artfully painted a picture of how totally different our lives have become compared to a hundred plus years ago. The stories of early Missouri and the violent turbulence of Kansas before statehood were engaging. The book is filled with sweeping tales of life in an America long gone.
I loved Runger's narration for the book John Adams. His narration of Truman started out a bit rough. It took one section (about 8 hours) before he hit his stride and warmed to the story he was telling. After that the reading was good.
In the end--Harry Truman proved to be anything but "That Mousy Little Man From Missouri". Recommended if you are interested in American history and love a good biography. I really enjoyed it.
52 of 52 people found this review helpful
It's hard to imagine listening to a biography of one life for 54 hours...but this particular life was so packed with amazing events lived by an amazing man, that every hour was justified.
Okay, I'll admit there were a few hours that began to feel a little boring to me at times, particularly about his childhood and his ancestors. But I'm glad I listened to them, because biographies are about knowing people, and people are about all of the factors that shaped them, including the mundanities. Truman never forgot who he was and where he came from, so those shaping influences were necessary to the story.
And, as I'm learning from reading other minutiae-minded authors (such as Marilynne Robinson and even Victor Hugo), the little details provide ambiance, and ambiance immerses the reader, if the reader will allow it to. The reader begins to feel as though he is walking through life with the main character, and where this may not always be exciting, it certainly deepens the understanding and even affection that is developed.
And I became very fond of Harry Truman while listening to this biography. I knew next-to-nothing about him before reading it, but now I feel a deep respect and appreciation for him. Though we disagree on some fundamentals, I can now at least appreciate his positions. And though I can see some of his mistakes, I can respect that they were well-intended mistakes. He was, in short, a good man. And a good man is always worth getting to know. Frankly, that's one important way that this book helped me grow as a person. It showed me how much it's possible to respect someone with whom I disagree on major political issues. And that's a huge gift, because respect is a major antidote to...well...being a knee-jerk JERK. I hope to be less of a knee-jerker with people on the other side of the political spectrum, more interested in getting to know them as people rather than as political labels.
But mistakes and disagreements aside, this man did a phenomenal job in two terms which threw more staggering challenges at him than any previous president had ever faced. Few men could have stood up under the assault. I defy his critics to have done better.
As for the narrator, he was excellent. It must be a challenge to make a 54-hour biography enjoyable to listen to, but he certainly did it.
Somewhere past halfway through the book, something changed in the studio, because the mic picked up a lot of mouth noises from there until the end of the book. But that should reflect on the technicians, not on the narrator himself. And it should certainly not discourage anyone from taking this very worthwhile walk through the life of Harry Truman.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Truman's Presidency was a period of American history I was unfamiliar with - the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Korean war - and McCullough's biography does full justice to the man, and the moments of a great president. Born a decade away from the Frontier, and dying in the atomic age in which he had had to make a momentous decision, Truman's life spanned an era. This biography is well paced, lively, informative, unsparing when it comes to Truman's perceived failings, generous in its appreciation of his skills and strengths as a human being.
What did you like best about this story?
Nelson Runger's narration is superb. His pace and vitality informs the book, and I appreciated the way that different players - Dean Acheson, Marshall, Roosevelt were given due weight. He didn't succumb (too much) to hamming up Churchill.
Any additional comments?
In short, highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This is a very long and detailed account of Harry S Trueman. It is a very good story, did not get bored. The audio book is good to listen to, the narration is excellent, yes it is 54 hours but well worth it.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Interesting background provided in part one of the book. Great story telling and captivating narration by Nelson Runger.
Would you listen to Truman again? Why?
Yes, because there was so much to listen to I think I probably missed quite a bit. I was quite amazed at the way American politics works, so different to ours in Australia under the English system. It opened my eyes quite a lot. I honestly felt very sorry for Mr. Truman; he was not treated with respect when he became Vice President. He hadn't wanted to be Vice President, he had a horror of becoming the President through the President passing away (he was very sick) and sure enough - his nightmare came true. How could they not have kept him in the loop about the Atomic bomb development when they knew Roosevelt was extremely ill?
Any additional comments?
I think this President is the least understood but I believe him to be the most honest. The way he was treated by Roosevelt and the minions surrounding him borders on disgusting. When you think about it the Vice President should know everything the President knows, it's only a split second between being the Vice President and becoming the President if there's an accident or an assassination. This was a fascinating look at the life of a man who became the leader of the free world in its worst hours through accident, and had to make the hardest decision any man had ever had to make - do we drop the bomb or do we continue to fight? He then went on to be elected in his own right and become much loved by the American people. I loved this book.