Book review: The Secretary

BOOK: The Secretary
AUTHOR: Kim Ghattas
PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan Aust
RRP: $19.99

AS First Lady of the United States, Senator and now Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton is one of the best-known women in the world.

Lebanese journalist Kim Ghattas chronicles her journey with Mrs Clinton over four years.

With civil war in Beirut all she had ever known, Kim already decided as a teenager that she wanted to be a journalist.

Little did she think that she would become one of the elite State Department's Press Corps accompanying the US Secretary of State on her worldwide tours as part of her entourage.

America's role in the Middle East has been chequered to say the least. Its power has been defined as much by its failures (both at home and abroad) as by its strengths, and it has effectively polarised international opinion.

The United States has been blamed in distant lands for ongoing war; whether loving or resenting America's involvement in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, there is a shared belief that America is omnipotent.

On the one hand it symbolises hope for a better life; on the other there is distrust and ambivalence about its foreign policy.

Clinton, herself a polarising figure in US politics, has been at the helm as American envoy to the world.

Whether reading the riot act to the Chinese to signing on to war in Libya, or brokering peace deals with the Palestinians, Hillary Clinton is admired for her unwavering stance on world issues or resented for the power that she represents and often wields.

This is also the compelling story of the author's journey of self-discovery, from her war-torn childhood to her present status as elite press officer in Washington.

Life on the road and in the office with Hillary Clinton makes for a gripping narrative that still has us searching for answers about America's place in the world.

Here is a forthright and intimate portrait of a charismatic woman and the complexities of her diplomacy on the world stage.

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