< OurBookClub : Autobiographies and Biographies Book Reviews for 2007


Book Reviews: Autobiographies & Biographies

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Fair Game by Valerie Plame-WilsonBook Cover of Fair Game by Valerie Plame-Wilson

Read by Natalie 2007

Natalie recommends this as great reading, although disturbing the things people get away with.

This is a fascinating insight into the life of a CIA undercover operative. What makes it even more amazing is that she is telling her story at all and for that we can thank the US government. Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent, the kind who would never get help from her government if she was caught doing her job. Then one day, they exposed her, all because her husband, a CIA consultant had written an article criticising the US government's comments about WMD. With her career in ruins and her life and that of her family and contacts potentially in danger, Valerie did the only thing she could and struck back at the very people who were supposed to protect her. This is a mind-blowing story, with large sections blocked out as they are still deemed classified. Those parts are re-told by a journalist at the end, and provide some clarification as to what Valerie was going through. An amazing life and amazing story that will leave you shocked at the things some people got away with.

Watch an interview with Valerie Plame-Wilson

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Almost French by Sarah TurnbullBook Cover of Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Read by Natalie 2007

Natalie recommends it as an easy and at times entertaining story

Sarah was only supposed to be in Paris for a week, but a chance meeting with Frederic leads to her falling in love and creating a life there instead. The first half of the story is all about her trying to live and be accepted in a foreign country, while the second half is about her life working in Paris and all the complications that go with that. The book is at times quite entertaining, particularly as she encounters French snobbery, as it relates to her conversation, language, laugh and wardrobe. It would be an intimidating life to try and fit in there, but she ultimately makes the best of it, and enjoys her time working as a journalist. As luck would have it, she only got her cadetship because it was around the time that the French were doing atomic testing near her native Australia, and in a bid to win the Australians over again, the French gave her the journalism scholarship!

Click here to watch an interview with Sarah Turnbull

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The Prince of Providence by Mike StantonBook Cover of The Prince of Providence by Mike Stanton

Read by Natalie 2007

Natalie recommends this as an interesting although complicated look at the most notorious mayor in America

I read this shortly after arriving in the US where my husband and I were going to be living in Providence, Rhode Island for the next 2 years. Buddy Cianci is the infamous mayor who ruled Providence for 2 terms. Starting out as an anti-mob lawyer, he was quickly seduced by the power and greed held by the mafia when he first began his role as mayor. His first term last for nearly 25 years, making him one of the longest running mayors ever. But his time was marred by corruption and illegal activities and resulted in the conviction of 22 political insiders and the eventual resignation of Buddy after he pleaded guilty to torturing a man he suspected of sleeping with his estranged wife. Six years later he was somehow re-elected as mayor and went on to revitalise a dying city, known only as a blip on the journey from New York to Boston! This included moving the river to run through the city, commissioning waterfire, a spectacular fire display on the river, creating the famous Rhode Island School of Design, the Providence Place Mall and so on. However, 11 years later an FBI investigation finally caught up with Buddy and he was tried, convicted and thrown into jail. Despite this, he is something of an icon in Providence, having revamped the city, he even has his own pasta sauce range for sale in the supermarket! During the time I lived there, he made a bit of a comeback after emerging from jail, minus his infamous toupe range, and landed himself a career on radio. His story is amazing, particularly having been anti-mafia in the beginning to then winding up in bed with the mafia as he ran the city. It should be noted that the Providence mafia was considered more powerful than the Boston mafia and a mediator for the 5 families in the New York mafia. To this day, there is evidence of a mafia presence in Providence. Buddy was ruthless and aggressive in getting what he wanted and one wonders how much else he got away with that we don't know about. In particular, he managed to talk a girl out of filing rape charges against him when they were at university and this was never really brought up against him again. Although it was at times confusing, probably due to my lack of knowledge about Providence politics, it was nevertheless a very interesting read and certainly set the scene for an interesting 2 years living there!

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Running With Scissors by Augusten BurroughsBook Cover of Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Read by Natalie 2007

Natalie recommends this as a very bizarre story

This is the story of Augusten's childhood, where his mother, a delusional poet basically stopped raising him and gave him to a psychiatrist to be brought up. His father never cared, and pretty much deserted the family when Augusten was very young. Life with the psychiatrist and his family however, was far from normal. They lived in complete squalor, with a paedophile living in the backyard shed, there were no rules or school to follow, the Christmas tree stayed up indefinitely and Valium was consumed whenever anyone felt like it. Plus there was always the electro-shock therapy whenever things got really bad. In a truly bizarre twist, the psychiatrist claimed to be able to see the future based on what his poo looked like floating in the toilet bowl! The fact that anyone could survive this, let alone survive it and still remain normal is remarkable! Augusten describes his life with great candour, including his mother's rape by the psychiatrist, her turn as a lesbian and the crazy man she also allows into the house who ventures into Augusten's room at night. It is quite disturbing reading and I certainly wouldn't wish this childhood on anyone!

Running With Scissors is now a movie to tie-in with the book.

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I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker MaxBook Cover of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max

Read by Natalie 2007

Natalie recommends that you read this is you want to see an example of an overindulged, arrogant idiot.

I am not entirely sure why I picked up this book and read it. Suffice to say the author who decided to write about his exploits is an arrogant arsehole. Sure his escapades can be entertaining but his view of women and other people's property is just obscene. He cares about no one but himself and even then it's only enough to care about how drunk he can get and how many women he can pick up. Read it if you want to be shocked at how much of a dickhead one person can be, but please don't be inspired by him.

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