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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan » User review

A Hymnal

  • Dec 10, 2001
When Lou Cannon was on The Today Show recently to promote his own new Reagan book, Katie Couric opened the interview by asking, with a sneer in her voice, 'Why do we need *another* book about Ronald Reagan?'

Cannon was too polite to say so, but his answer could have been, 'Because people like you, Katie, keep getting him wrong.'

As Peggy Noonan points out, most of the people who have written about the Gipper over the years, up to and including his official biographer Edmund Morris, have understood neither him nor the things he loved and that motivated him to greatness.

But Peggy Noonan, she understands. And that has allowed her to present a moving, lyrical portrait of Ronald Reagan that not only reminds so many of us of what we loved about him, but lets us share her understanding in a way that other writers, blinded by their grudges and political biases, have never been able to. That seems to be her goal: to get us to understand the man -- the experiences that shaped him, and the way he lived his life -- as she does.

The book is full of insights -- wonderful, revealing insights like the observation that nobody who really knew Reagan, from whatever part of the political spectrum, ever thought he was unkind or dishonest or untrustworthy. Only the people who never knew him said that [p. 83]. Or the comment that no other president, from FDR to Bush II (Truman possibly excepted), had as broad and varied a background in economics -- not as an academic discipline, but as an experience of life [p. 104].

The book is full of stories, too. Warm, moving stories like the one about President-elect Reagan hanging up the Christmas lights on his California home, or clearing brush on his ranch, or welcoming elderly Frances Green, whom he had never met, to the Oval Office: 'Frances! If I'd known you were coming, I'd have come out there to get you myself!'

Ms Noonan looks in-depth at some of the key issues in Reagan's terms of office, including Iran-Contra and the arms reduction talks with the Soviets. But the particular strength of the book is in tracing Reagan's preparation for the presidency ... in the ways his character was shaped by battling Communists in Hollywood (something else the Left sneers about), or watching his first marriage collapse, or finding his perfect partner in Nancy Davis.

This isn't the definitive Reagan biography. But it may well be the definitive portrait of the man -- and certainly the best one yet produced by someone who knew and worked with him first-hand.

It's a cliché to say, 'You'll laugh, you'll cry.' But if you have even residual love, or admiration, or sympathy, or even interest in Ronald Reagan, you will find yourself deeply moved by this book. The usual types of people will sneer as they've always sneered (look at some of the reviews on this page). But you'll never see Reagan in quite the same way again.

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More When Character Was King: A Sto... reviews
review by . June 21, 2004
This book celebrates the beliefs of President Reagan and the background more than the actual events of his life. It presents that life superimposed on a series of values and beliefs that steered him. Peggy Noonan's Ronald Reagan could not do other than what he did because his character and his religion compelled him into the directions he took. One can debate if they were the correct directions but that is in my opinion a correct statement.The book is a tad messanic. I would subimt that the author …
review by . August 08, 2002
. . .which does not fit -- and should not be fit -- into the typical biography category.No particularly new details about the 40th President of the United States are revealed here which would be of interest to an historian. That is not the purpose of the book. Rather, Ms. Noonan sets forth a portrait of an ordinary man who rose to the challenge and did great things. In the tradition of the classic Irish storyteller, Ms. Noonan tries (and for the most part, succeeds) in expressing the humanity of …
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Andrew S. Rogers ()
Ranked #364
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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About this book


"You read her to thrall in her striking ability to behold great vistas through a pinhole . . . in a language that is always concrete and vital."(The New York Times)

"Noonan possesses an astonishingly deft touch for making the political process come alive."(USA Today)

It is twenty years—a full generation—since Ronald Reagan first walked into the White House and ignited a revolution. From the beginning, he enjoyed the American people's affection but now, as he approaches the end of his life, he has received what he deserved even more: their deep respect.

What was the wellspring of his greatness? Peggy Noonan, bestselling author of the classic Reagan-era memoirWhat I Saw at the Revolution, former speechwriter, and now a columnist and contributing editor forThe Wall Street Journal, argues that the secret of Reagan's success was no secret at all. It was his character—his courage, his kindness, his persistence, his honesty, and his almost heroic patience in the face of setbacks—that was the most important element of his success.

The one thing a man must bring into the White House with him if he is to succeed, Noonan contends, is a character that people come to recognize as high, sturdy, and reliable.

Noonan, renowned for her special insight into Ronald Reagan's history and personality, brings her own reflections on Reagan to bear inWhen Character Was Kingand discloses never-before-told stories from the former president's family, friends, and White House colleagues to...
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ISBN-10: 0670882356
ISBN-13: 978-0670882359
Author: Peggy Noonan
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Publisher: Viking Adult
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"A Hymnal"
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