I guess I'm a bit suspicious about politicians (can't think why!) and I was niggled by Michelle Obama's appearance at the Royal Albert Hall supposedly being out-priced for the wo-man in the street, (also why only speak in London, rather than schedule an evening in the North?), so I approached this text with a fairly negative mindset. I wasn't expecting much honesty, and I was bringing to it my own prejudices, ready to judge her negatively. I wasn't expecting a lot. (And who said 'sisterhood was dead?)
I am pleased to report, though, that I was very pleasantly surprised by the depth, intelligence and humanity that shone through her writing. It was a convincing autobiographical exploration of motherhood, womanhood class, education culture and race.
I chose to listen, rather than read the book in print version, whilst swimming; it kept my interest 95% of the time. I agreed with Michelle's political stance and acknowledged the frustrations revealed in the sub-text. It seemed that Barrack had great ideas, great policies and was always an advocate for a fairer and more just world, but was thwarted at every step, largely out of spite, rather than due to republicans having any real policies of their own, other than to keep protect gun laws at all costs. It seems to me that Michelle sees politics as an extension of the playground, and an arena to avoid like the plague. She is pretty clear at the end of her memoir, where her own political future lies...
The first half of the book explores her childhood in Chicago and outlines where her values stem from. It follows a predictable linear stance, but this works well. The structure of the text, is in fact, one of the strengths of the text. Michelle expresses her thoughts about Barrack's political ambitions and views, and shares her experiences of living and working from Washington DC. She is candid about her marriage and doubts about Barrack standing for election at any political level. She makes it very clear that it was not plain-sailing being 'First Lady'. It is hard not to regard her account of her life during Barrack's presidency, at times, as akin to surviving a jail sentence, albeit in a luxury cell called the White House.
Michelle's keen advocacy of positive change for women and children lead the text. She is assertive and strong in her style, which, for sure, is to be admired. She emulated her values through her strong narrative voice. A bit too much .. the feminist and equal rights believer in me says of course not, the semi-reserved English introvert says.. maybe a bit too much at times!
The memoir ends pretty much with the end of Barrack's presidency. As she narrates the audio version herself, it brings a real immediacy to the text and the reader almost feels like they have been invited to one of Michelle's weekends away with the girlfriends! If Michelle was here for tea, I'd be probing for a bit more. Something like: "Sorry Michelle, I'm not convinced about you buying in ]sharing Barrack with his constituents, and whilst I respect that you were even frank enough to touch upon your marriage counselling and how it helped you take responsibility for your own happiness, I need to know more!" Resentment tremors are never far from the surface, but I guess bearing in mind that she was probably as candid as she could have been, in light of how much she is in in the public eye.
So to sum up, I definitely recommend this book, not to a select group of readers, but to everyone. She needs teasing about her 'royal family' comments as, in my view, she clearly doesn't get that part of English culture, but otherwise a great 'listen' creating plenty of opportunity for reflection.