Spoken from the walls

It’s not quite at Harry Potter levels, but Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken from the Heart, has sold around 150 000 copies in its first week on sale in the United States.

Bush remains well behind her predecessor as first lady, now secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s 2003 memoir, Living History, bought for a reported $80-million advance, sold 600 000 copies in its first week on sale. Her sales are also dwarfed by Sarah Palin’s. The former vice-presidential candidate’s autobiography, Going Rogue, sold more than 460 000 copies in its first week, according to The Bookseller.

Bush has written about a car crash in which she was involved at the age of 17, when her high-school friend was killed, and her belief that she and George W Bush could have been poisoned during a state visit to Germany in 2007. She is touring the US to promote the book.

Reviews so far have been varied. Carole Cadwalladr, writing in The Observer, said: “Although the second half of the book is frustratingly opaque, a litany of functions attended and good causes supported, what comes through nevertheless is that Laura Bush is a more complex, interesting character than perhaps anyone had cause to guess.”

The New York Times described Spoken from the Heart as two books. “The first is a deeply felt, keenly observed account of her childhood and youth in Texas,” wrote Michiko Kakutani. “The second book is a thoroughly conventional autobiography by a politician’s wife — a rote recitation of travel, public appearances and meetings with foreign dignitaries that sheds not the faintest new light on the presidency of the author’s husband.”

Newsweek was harsher, saying that although the book contains “gems” of personal stories they are “sandwiched between pages and pages of boring, uninteresting facts, like what colour she decided to paint the White House residency’s walls and what theme she chose every year for the Christmas celebration. About a half of Spoken from the Heart could have [and should have] been cut,” it said. — Guardian News & Media 2010

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Alison Flood
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