The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent by Robert A Caro
|The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent by Robert A Caro|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: I did wonder how this book could live up to the 5* The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power. It surpassed it.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 22 hours 8 minutes||Date: December 2013|
It's only a matter of days since I finished listening to The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, the first part of Robert A Caro's definitive work on the President and despite having just spent over forty hours on the book I wanted to learn more. I was torn though - the second book in a series is not often as good as the first and it struck me that these might not be the most exciting years in Johnson's life. Was this book going to be the link which took us on to the more exciting times? Not a bit of it.
You could read this book without having read (or listened to) the first part (but then, why deny yourself the pleasure?) as Caro recaps the most important parts and some sections will sound very familiar in the early parts of the book. Be patient. This volume takes us through the period after Johnson failed in his first attempt to become a senator and whilst he was still a congressman, his 'war service', the source of his much-disputed fortune and the infamous 1948 Senatorial primary.
The research behind the book is impeccable: it's not just book or document research but statements from many of the people who were there at the time and who know what really happened. Many are prepared to go on the record. It's fairly obvious that Caro is not a Johnson fan, but his criticisms and accusations are backed up by fact and if there is doubt about what he is saying then he'll flag up the doubt and the possible explanations. What is worrying is that a man who was such a stranger to the truth and without any moral foundation could become President of the United States and de facto the most powerful man in the world.
As with The Path to Power I listened to Means of Ascent as an audio book, narrated by Grover Gardner. It was a superb experience: Gardner is an exceptional narrator and a real pleasure to listen to. As in the previous book the sound quality is superb - both through my iPod and the speakers on my PC: twenty two hours just flew by and I was disappointed when the book ended. I could happily have listened for many hours more.
Of course that's not just down to sound quality and an exceptional narrator: the content plays the major part. Far from being the filler which moved us on to more exciting times this was a story which had me on the edge of my seat on several occasions. If you're a fan of courtroom dramas you'll almost certainly find this to be one of the best: the story of the primary contest with honest, upstanding Coke Stevenson is superb, with another twist just when you think that one or the other must have finally won the day. As with the biographical vignette of Sam Rayburn in The Path to Power the story of Coke Stevenson would make a book on its own. Caro tells us at one point that he's not simply writing a biography of Lyndon Johnson but telling a slice of American history by reference to Johnson's life rings true - I finished the book much wiser and not just about Johnson. There I was infinitely saddened.
I'd like to thank Audible for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
You could read this without having read the first part but read The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power first and you will increase your pleasure.
You could get a free audio download of The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent by Robert A Caro with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent by Robert A Caro at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent by Robert A Caro at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.