A Promised Land: Absorbing account of Barack Obama’s first presidency

Barack Obama uses eloquent brilliance to write of political ideals and weight of history

Barack Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009: He was fully aware of the irony that he was deploying more troops to Afghanistan at that very moment. Photograph: Doug Mills/New York Times

Barack Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009: He was fully aware of the irony that he was deploying more troops to Afghanistan at that very moment. Photograph: Doug Mills/New York Times

Sometimes even the best-laid plans can go awry. The first volume of the long-awaited memoir from Barack Obama was scheduled to hit shelves on November 17th – two weeks after the US presidential election. The timing was supposed to ensure that the former president would not be weighing in during a highly contested campaign. Instead, A Promised Land landed as Donald Trump refused to accept the results of the election, plunging the country into an unprecedented constitutional stand-off.

Though Obama’s successor is not mentioned until the final chapters of this voluminous work, he is a ghostly presence throughout. Dipping in to the world of another president, just a decade ago, the contrast with the presidency of Trump is inescapable. While we must wait to see what illuminations Trump shares with us if and when he writes his own memoirs, Obama’s new work is an absorbing account of the events that brought him to the White House and the first 2½ years of his presidency.

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