Few people, and even fewer women, have been as close to the machinations of power as Madeleine Albright. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a memoir written by such a senior woman—only Hillary Clinton and Katharine Graham come immediately to mind—and it is this feature that sets her story apart. Albright writes with a degree of candour rarely evident in the memoirs of her male counterparts. She writes with honesty about her husband leaving her for a younger woman and the discovery of her Jewish ancestry. One would hardly expect such frank admissions from the likes of Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Madam Secretary is both a personal history and a chronicle of Clinton’s foreign policy. Albright is a fierce patriot and proud of the administration’s achievements. But she is willing to concede failure. Interestingly, she regrets that the Clinton administration did not do more to push for liberalisation in the Middle East. On Rwanda: ‘we did too little’. She gives a deeply detailed account of her time under Clinton that may be a little too forensic for the general reader. Nonetheless, Albright argues cogently that the international community, far from being ‘illusory’—as Rice termed it—is a confronting reality of modern politics. America ignores this reality at its own peril.

This is a book for our troubled times.  

Madam Secretary: A Memoir, Madeleine Albright. Miramax, 2003. isbn 1 4050 3369 x, rrp $59.95

Aaron Martin is a Melbourne writer.



submit a comment


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up