What Happened is her third memoir, and with it she defies the conventional wisdom that would suggest waiting at least a few years after important events to reflect upon them, with an eye toward gaining the perspective that distance is said to bring. Clinton’s choice to write this book now, however, seems fitting because nearly everything about the election of 2016 was unconventional ... Historians can benefit from Clinton’s near-contemporaneous consideration of each of these issues. They will likely find her quick first draft engaging (when she does not lapse into campaign-speak), witty, and useful, even as they take note of her natural self-interest in writing about these matters.
The final quarter of What Happened reads like a spy novel. It spells out Clinton’s version of Russia’s involvement in our election and her staff’s attempts to get the media to turn away from her emails long enough to give it some attention ... 'On Being a Woman in Politics' is a fascinating chapter examining the tightrope Clinton has walked during her life in public service ... The folks who are rolling their eyes, hard, at the notion of Hillary Clinton doing all the good she can, for all the people she can, will likely not read What Happened. That’s a shame. It’s a first-person, front-row account of arguably one of the most pivotal elections in American history. But plenty of others will. And I would urge the pundits and the platform-holders to think twice before adding another voice to the 'Go away, Hillary' choir.
What Happened is not one book, but many. It is a candid and blackly funny account of her mood in the direct aftermath of losing to Donald J. Trump. It is a post-mortem, in which she is both coroner and corpse. It is a feminist manifesto. It is a score-settling jubilee. It is a rant against James B. Comey, Bernie Sanders, the media, James B. Comey, Vladimir Putin and James B. Comey. It is a primer on Russian spying. It is a thumping of Trump. It is worth reading ... Are there moments when What Happened is wearying, canned and disingenuous, spinning events like a top? Yes. Does it offer any new hypotheses about what doomed Clinton’s campaign? No. It merely synthesizes old ones; Clinton’s diagnostics are the least interesting part of the book. Is there a full chapter devoted to her email, clearly intended to make her own closing arguments in this case? Yes. She can’t shake her inner litigator. But this book is not just a perseverative recap of 2016. It is the story of what it was like to run for president of the United States as the female nominee of a major party, a first in American history ... You may have heard that What Happened is angry. It’s true. Or defiant, anyway. Love it or loathe it, chafe at it or cheer it; you will now see, for the first time, what it looks like when Clinton doesn’t spend all of her energy suppressing her irritation.
What Happened suffers from stilted prose and insipid inspirational quotes, but that is par for the course for a political memoir. The real problem with What Happened is that it is not the book it needed to be. It spends more time on descriptions of Clinton’s various post-election coping strategies, which include chardonnay and 'alternative nostril breathing,' than it does on her campaign decisions in the Midwest. It is written for her fans, in other words, and not for those who want real answers about her campaign, and who worry that the Democratic Party is learning the wrong lessons from the 2016 debacle ... In What Happened, good fought evil, and evil won. It is a fairy tale. The great tragedy is that Clinton seems to think it is true ... Hillary Clinton must have her scapegoat. Bernie Sanders did this, Bernie Sanders did that. Above all, Bernie Sanders had the audacity to be mad about American inequality.
Her book contains an account of the extraordinarily divisive campaign, insights into Ms. Clinton’s personality, character, and values, and the challenges confronting women in politics ...her narrative will be familiar to virtually all readers of What Happened, and seems belabored ...Ms. Clinton emphasizes that she’s proud to be a pragmatic progressive, who has mastered the details of policies ...What Happened is at its best when Ms. Clinton addresses the role of women in politics. A sexist double standard, she demonstrates, is alive and well ...makes an intriguing argument about the applicability of a female style to effective governance.
...ultimately, it reads like a book she had to write, audience be damned — a book written out of exasperation. If Trump's combative inauguration speech was 'a howl from the white nationalist gut,' as Clinton puts it, her book is a howl from the gut of Hermione Granger — the embattled cry of the hyper-competent woman who desperately wishes the world were a meritocracy ... The revelations aren't the behind-the-scenes kind so much as the in-Hillary's-head kind. Those wondering how she got through those hours and days after the election get their answers ... Clinton parcels out responsibility, and she is exacting in her accounting. The result is a study in contrasts: She heaps praise on some people, which makes it that much more meaningful when she lambastes others ... The writing in What Happened is engaging — Clinton is charming and even funny at times, without trying to paint herself in too flattering of a light. While she presents herself as even-keeled and intelligent, she also comes off as hectoring and bookish.
Clinton is hardly alone in her shock, or in the struggle to assess how a man she described as unqualified, immature and even dangerous became leader of the free world, which helps explain why What Happened shot to the top of the best-seller list in its first week ... What Happened contains anecdotes that will be alternately uplifting and heartbreaking to her most ardent supporters. Detractors will seize on ammunition for affirmation of her sanctimony and inauthenticity ... But let’s face it: The book would be much less interesting — and, frankly, less honest — without her sometimes caustic airing of grievances ... As with any politician’s account of a campaign, What Happened is less than the definitive word on what really happened in 2016. Accounts by journalists and historians in the mold of Theodore White (his 'Making of the President' series set the standard) tend to be richer in revelation, more illuminating in context and more thorough in scope ... With the publication of What Happened, those words, those dreams — and those tears — can now be shared. The answer to the question of 'what really happened?' remains elusive.
Hers is a strange story in an increasingly strange world. It’s one that needs telling. And as her die-hard defenders proclaimed, Clinton can write a book if she wants, and nobody gets to stop her. They’re not wrong. She has every right to write a book about the election. But not this book. Nobody should ever be allowed to write a book like this ... She’s not trying to be honest or readable; Clinton is still desperate for you to support her campaign. Everything she writes feels metallic in the mouth, weightless and inauthentic ... the unguarded recollections in What Happened sound a lot like someone who will be stuck in election mode for the rest of her life. They sound ghost-written and focus-grouped, scrubbed to a shine, as fake as anything any career politician says from the podium ... Reading What Happened induces a horrifying claustrophobia, the feeling of being pent up in a small room as someone delivers an unending lecture about how much better they are than everyone else ... Most of all, the howling absence of Hillary Clinton is felt whenever she tries to describe what interests me most: how it actually felt to lose.
...the book is mostly a lively, unflinching read ...struck by the criticism that she’s not criticizing herself ... While it was painful to relive some of it...I can imagine writing the book has been cathartic for her. As Clinton repeatedly tells us, she replays all of this pretty much every day ...argue that the media’s hostility to this book stems partly from the fact that Clinton is pretty unforgiving in examining the role of the media ... By far the most controversial sections of the book will be where she lays out the evidence for Russian meddling in the election, and the possibility that figures in the Trump campaign colluded. Clinton finds no smoking gun, but I find her evidence convincing — and disturbing.
...I found her account fascinating, both for what it revealed about our politics and what it revealed about Clinton ...it seems fair enough to criticize her both for what she says, and how she says it. Really, though, I don’t find the anger that greeted this book at all mysterious ...found her book Clintonesque — by which I mean slippery, self-serving, disingenuous, and ultimately as untrustworthy as any of Bill’s assurances that he feels our pain ... Clinton’s sanctimony is fully on display in What Happened — as is her penchant for special pleading — and never more so than when attacking her chief Democratic rival ...parts of What Happened that struck me as both beguiling and profoundly truthful—particularly Clinton’s moving tribute to the women’s movement...if that’s the Hillary you know, and love, you’ll find a lot to like in this book. But if you are looking for a sense of what next, for either the country or the Democratic Party, look elsewhere.
The Hillary Clinton of this bitter memoir resembles the shrunken, beaten Richard Nixon who told David Frost that he gave his enemies a sword and 'they twisted it with relish.' Again and again she blames herself for losing, apologizing for her 'dumb' email management, for giving paid speeches to banks, for saying she’d put coal miners 'out of business.' She veers between regret and righteous anger, sometimes in the same paragraph ... What Happened is a raw and bracing book, a guide to our political arena ... The caterwauling about Clinton’s loss basically takes two forms — whether one event or gaffe could have reversed the election, and whether another candidate would have let the election even get close. Clinton is convincing on the first point, citing Trump’s own strategists about how the election was lost before the Comey letter. She is all over the map on the second.
...a necessary — if at times clunky and unconvincing — retrospective ... perhaps the most useful way to read What Happened is as one last instance of Clinton doing what she calls her civic duty. That the book is marked by her flaws (namedropping, contrived inspirational anecdotes, a refusal, or at least an inability, to reckon with her own failings as a candidate) as much as by her strengths (an expert’s understanding of policy and process, as well as an unexpectedly authentic sense of empathy) is only as it should be. This is her story, after all, and the most useful measure of it is to say the portrait that emerges is very much in line with the person, public or otherwise, we’ve known all along ... She should have been president, and she knows it; regret and loss is palpable throughout the book. And yet it’s also the case that she remains unable to reckon with just what happened in the 2016 election, looking for explanations, for reasons, while at the same time never quite uncovering her own complicity ... Read What Happened, then, not as score settling or revisionist history. Read it, rather, as what is it: self-serving in places but relatively honest, if not a knockout blow then something of a necessary punch.
...Hillary Clinton is also the recipient of a very particular brand of hatred from certain men: she is the rare author who will inspire conservatives to go turn her books upside down on the shelves in a sad little act of rebellion ... Clinton is at her best in What Happened when she talks about the loathing that some men lavish upon powerful women ... The fact is, you will leave What Happened with the same opinions you bring into What Happened. Whatever your opinion was of Clinton at this time last year, that will be your opinion after reading...book’s structure is at best confusing, at worst a mishmash of ideas in no particular order ...an accurate representation of reality. Clinton has no better idea of what happened than you or I. She’s piecing it together, figuring it out in public.
Many readers will enjoy this journey of 600 days, seeing the details of the bizarre 2016 campaign from Clinton’s perspective and with the benefit of her thorough, minutely detailed analysis ... Many people from across the political spectrum feel that Clinton is not the person she says she is. They don’t believe she loves her husband, that she is truly dedicated to the public good, that she wasn’t hiding anything in those emails. This book gives us Hillary’s version of Hillary, and it has the ring of truth.
Her new book is more gossipy, it is meaner, more entertaining and more wrong-headed than anything she or her speechwriters have written before ... The tone of the book is often quippy, and Clinton seems to have adopted the public persona crafted by her fans...The quippy shtick doesn’t always work, because Clinton fails to grasp basic criticisms levelled at her from a populist perspective to a degree that can’t be winked away ... It feels tiresome to explain this, but many Americans consider bankers the enemy, and voters wanted her to pick a side...It is laughable that an American politician would be indignant about her right to accept money from banks ... Clinton’s memoir surely won’t be the end of parsing what happened in 2016. But one thing is certain: what happens next will be up to somebody else.
...there is an element that was glaringly absent from her last two books: it is a compelling read. To anyone who waded through the formulaic prose of Living History (2003) or Hard Choices (2014), this may come as a shock. Having curated her image for so long, Clinton has finally given vent to her feelings ... Clinton still does not grasp the extent of her campaign’s shortcomings. Even her friends complained that it was devoid of spark. Her book offers much evidence of the spark and biting sarcasm she so carefully excised from her public appearances. Her prose is often acute. Marrying Bill was like 'hitching a ride on a comet.' Putin is a 'former KGB spy with a taste for over-the-top macho theatrics and baroque violence.' The media’s lack of curiosity about Trump officials’ use of private email is 'almost as if they never really cared about the proper maintenance of government records or the finer points of retroactive classification.' There is plenty of humour in What Happened. There is also pathos. 'What makes me such a lightning rod for people’s fury?' Clinton asks. 'I’m really asking. I’m at a loss.' That, too, is a question to which there is no cathartic answer.
There are parts of this book — like the opener, for example, which is set at Trump’s inauguration — that soar. Other chapters are not quite so successful. There’s one that’s basically a long list of everyone who worked on her campaign (the kind of stuff that should’ve been relegated to the acknowledgements). Sometimes her inner policy wonk gets a bit carried away. And other times her simmering anger comes boiling to the top and she’ll make a cutting remark about the President, effectively undercutting whatever point she’s making. Her detractors will dismiss What Happened as a laundry list of grievances. They’re wrong. This is an important book, and anyone who’s worried by what happened last November 8 should pick it up.
What Happened is in some ways a jarring read in the age of Trump. Clinton is introspective without narcissism, arch without being cruel. She can’t resist, even here, touching on her vision for the United States had she won, and her smartest-girl-in-the-class persona shines through... Clinton is deeply self-critical, churning over her own small decisions and larger errors ... But what takes What Happened from political memoir and into future historical document is Clinton’s clear-eyed assessment of the backdrop of gender and racial hostility that animated this election ... This is not a book that will please everyone – least of all those who think the best path Clinton could take would lead to an isolated cave somewhere she could live out the rest of her days in contrite excommunication ...a crucial story to tell nonetheless, and she is the one who should tell it.
It's inarguable that sexism played a role in her defeat, and I think most women would relate to the slights and aggressions she had to endure placidly. Clinton has struggled throughout her career to seem 'authentic,' whatever that means, and there are several places in the book where she comes across as genuinely likable ... But for every moment of identification, there were multiple moments where she came off as jarringly out-of-touch ... This book needs to exist, but only as a primary document of failure that should be studied for decades to come. While Clinton does a decent job pointing out what happened, it's not instructive in the way she probably intended. From her reverence for data and experts, to her wariness of populist movements of any kind, to her tone-deaf commitment to trickle-down feminism (featuring a cameo from her friend Sheryl Sandberg), Clinton doubles down on the kind of thinking that led progressives of all demographics to stay home or vote third party in 2016.
[What Happened] is, by turns, fascinating and boring, enjoyably caustic and irritatingly insipid, frank and guarded. But as a historical record, the book seems undeniably important ... Indeed, I wish the book were even more biting. Clinton says she’ll never run for office again, but What Happened nevertheless sometimes feels like a campaign tome, with detailed policy proposals and wistful descriptions of what she’d have done as president. There are lots of inspirational quotes and moments of canned uplift. Clinton doesn’t seem like a naturally introspective person—if she were, she probably wouldn’t be so indomitable in the face of so much loss and pain. She never interrogates the purity of her own motives and seems surprised when anyone else does.
Set in the negative space of a presidency that wasn’t, the book is a political memoir in the tritest traditions of the genre. Its chapters include titles like 'Perseverance,' 'Grit and Gratitude,' and 'Making History.' It offers inspirational quotes from Rilke, various Roosevelts, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Hamilton. But What Happened—its blunt title belies its tone—is also casually conversational. It is personal. It is a book fit for a time in which celebrity demands intimacy, and in which even one of politics’ most common works of poetry—the memoir—will revel in the idle revelations of prose ... What Happened, whose title of course requires no further predicate, occasionally engages in blame, what-happened-wise: of Clinton herself, of Donald Trump, of Bernie Sanders, of James Comey, of Vladimir Putin, of the American media, of many more...It also, however, takes the performative authenticity so common in those works—the focus-group-approved anecdotes, the personality-by-committee—and attempts to subvert it ... Clinton, ultimately, is doing in the book what the American media have for so long done to her, ostensibly on her behalf: She is commercializing her humanity. She is selling her emotions, for what will likely be a tidy profit...the woman who has for decades contended with a media system that demands ever more of her—more emotion, more authenticity, more humanity—is giving that system what it asked for. But she’s doing that on her own terms.
Some Clinton watchers will see her book as an agenda-setting set of guidelines for #TheResistance. Others will read it as sour grapes. Its historical value remains to be seen. As it stands, the best parts of the Hillary Clinton’s book coalesce to form the best profile of Hillary Clinton that will ever be written, because it’s honest and open in a way Clinton rarely is with the press ... in parts of Clinton’s book, it seems like she’s making a run at writing a history book. Reading it, I realized it’s convenient to have the constantly-shifting dunes of ridiculousness frozen for a second from a perspective zeitgeisty enough to have likely historical significance. What Happened is a nice walk down memory lane, if one of the features of memory lane was a highlight reel of one’s recent worst memories. If a person can stomach it ... The problem is that while the subject matter is vitally important to American discourse, no matter what Hillary Clinton says or does, no matter how right she is, she’s still associated with what amounts to be, among a certain population, a national trauma...Until that pain fades, What Happened will be an uncomfortable monument to everything we got wrong.
Those folks likely bought What Happened hoping it was a full-bore confession of real and (mostly) imagined crimes committed against God and the republic by the former secretary of state and 'unapologetic policy wonk.' She is not, as you might have heard, altogether unapologetic about things ... But What Happened also manages to be, all at once, a tenacious apologia, a painstaking autopsy, and a strenuous brief for her defense ...it’s a more engrossing and, oddly, more winning book than the one that would have been written by a triumphant President Hillary Clinton ... To better appreciate What Happened, it’s probably necessary to slide past most of the prepublication welter of dishy disclosures, puffy bluster, and zero-calorie instant analysis from pundits and provocateurs alike ... She is neither a monster nor a liberator. She’s a pragmatist. And what gives What Happened its poignancy is the author’s bemused exasperation over how very little having the answers to people’s problems matters compared with, as her husband would have put it a quarter century ago, 'feeling their pain.'
Ms. Clinton has always been a tough critic of her foes. Surely we were in for a scorcher. And yet it’s a snoozer—excruciatingly tedious ... What Happened is full of long, detailed explanations of why Ms. Clinton and her campaign were always well-meaning and principled but constantly disadvantaged and repeatedly sabotaged at crucial moments ... The author seems vaguely aware that the book’s chief hypothesis is improbable—was everybody really at fault except her and her senior campaign staff?—and so at various points she offers half-hearted declarations that she bears the ultimate blame. But how can she bear the blame if she never did anything wrong? This paradox haunts all three of her memoirs and deprives them of any genuine insight or interesting thought ... A memoirist no less than a politician must have some genuine awareness of his or her deficiencies and some ability to express that awareness. The trouble with What Happened is not that Ms. Clinton insists that she was right and that her adversaries were wrong and unfair in their criticisms. The trouble with her writing, and indeed with her whole political persona, is that she is obsessed with her own rectitude, and nobody else is.
At bottom, What Happened is less a campaign postmortem than a wonk’s lament. The search for single-bullet explanations of the catastrophe of 2016 will long outlast Clinton’s book, and the assortment of takes, counterspins, and rebukes, continuing to multiply even as I type, will only prolong that likely futile quest. But the most revealing admissions in What Happened don’t concern the trench warfare of our money-drenched, tech-addled, message-tested presidential campaigns. No, the places where Clinton’s memoir serves as a robust and persuasive diagnosis of our political ills all concern the candidate’s own confessed, still unresolved disorientation at the specter of an angry, populist electorate ... Continuing to speculate on what can be done to fix the anger of these unhinged rural populists, Clinton briskly dismisses the notion of embracing a battery of redistributionist economic positions, in the Bernie Sanders vein ... once Clinton began looking into the direct redress of wealth and income inequality, she realized that it involved the actual appropriation of wealth and income—something that a good neoliberal wonk must always rule out on principle.
Let’s get one thing out of the way at the top: Clinton takes personal responsibility for her loss in the 2016 presidential election—and she does so multiple times throughout this memoir, which proves to be much more than a political autopsy. As in her previous books, Clinton is eagle-eyed about her faults and clearly recognizes where her statements and actions (deplorables, anyone?) worked against her ... in her wonkish way, and exhibiting a clear desire to figure out how it went wrong, Clinton goes much deeper than just examining the particulars of the campaign and the election ... There are a few incidents treated as nothing-to-look-at-here moments that could have used more discussion, especially Bill Clinton’s tarmac meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which is dismissed in a few sentences. But the remarkably few sour grapes expressed in the book hardly comprise a whine. Writing in her smart, sometimes self-deprecating voice, Clinton brings much-needed perspective to the election, especially for her millions of supporters, who also want to know what happened and why.
What Happened is a memoir by a now-retired politician named Hillary Clinton and it details, over the course of 500 pages, the most humiliating sequence of events I can imagine befalling a public figure ... This is a fundamentally tragic book, a memoir about defeat on a scale that I can scarcely comprehend ... Clinton writes persuasively and at length about the difficulty of being a woman in public life, mixing her own experience with new terms she tells us she’s been picking up, like 'mansplaining' and 'woke' ... There are moments in What Happened when you are made to question the reliability of its narrator. Beneath the account of a revolutionary campaign for the presidency, you catch glimpses of something else ... For all its artlessness, What Happened achieves a kind of art. Official history is a soft blanket and this one, for all its sorrow, is more comforting than most. But if we’re to avoid being transformed ourselves, we should be honest in our own history.
The book is surprisingly candid and witty. It is even off-the-wall entertaining ... Any objective reader will be brought up short by her candidly confessing to yelling at the television set when Trump settled the case against Trump University and threw the remote control at the set when she read 'the news that he filled his team with Wall Street bankers after relentlessly accusing me of being their stooge.' But it isn't nearly as revealing as her personal anecdote about the unconditional love she experienced as a kid from her father ... In truth, despite the book's readability, it also is for many long pages at a time, unremittingly wonky and obeisant to received authority on so many subjects. (On the couple's first date they went to a Mark Rothko exhibit at Yale.) At least half of What Happened seems to be the work of a student so punctilious as to be pedantic. It's hard, even in everything so good about it, to maintain total patience with Hillary the mega-wonk. But that's perhaps another revelation ... For the purposes of a book that HAD to be written for both the bestseller list and American history's sake, she does very well indeed.
A touch too reserved and polite, given the circumstances, and in need of supplementing by hard-edged books like Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’ Shattered. Still, a useful book to read — and, for many, to mourn over.