...nothing that has been printed about Mrs. Graham is as compelling as the story she herself tells in Personal History, her riveting, moving autobiography ... Am I making clear how extraordinary this book is? Kay Graham has lived in a world so circumscribed that her candor and forthrightness are all the more affecting. Her manners never desert her: she is even able to speak generously of the woman her husband ran off with ... She manages to rewrite the story of her life in such a way that no one will ever be able to boil it down to a sentence, but I'll give it a try: Katharine Graham turns out to have had not two lives but four, and the story of her journey from daughter to wife to widow to woman parallels to a surprising degree the history of women in this century. It's also a wonderful book.
I don’t know of a more complex autobiography by an American business figure, certainly not one that allows itself such moments of weakness, embarrassment, and pain. There is plenty of material in Personal History to satisfy the most obvious expectations—all the familiar episodes of the Post’s history are replayed, and famous faces bob into sight as if in a capital version of 'Grand Hotel'—but more interesting is the degree to which this memoir is a description of the muggy intimacy of the world of Washington and the way one powerful woman learned to live her life there ... For all its glamour and great personages, Personal History is a litany of humiliations, incidents in which the memoirist faults herself for lack of judgment, of independence, or of strength ... Her allegiance to democratic capitalism is no less firm than that of William F. Buckley, Jr., and her inherent faith that the establishment élites will do the right thing is nearly absolute. She really does seem to believe that Watergate was an aberration.
In her memoir, Personal History, a huge and most methodical book, Graham writes in detail about her family and her tragic marriage and, best of all, the many years as the great custodian of the family newspaper, the Washington Post, including the turbulent, historic era when its reporting led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974 ... Because in her exacting way she is inclined to include too much--parties, dinners, letters written and received and repeated self-deprecations that are understandable but not always interesting--Personal History lumbers. Yet her account of 23 years of marriage to a doomed man whose increasing spirals of 'hyperactivity . . . with its accompanying angst and vitriolic diatribes' are a harrowing record of his suffering and of hers.