Watergate: a novel by Thomas Mallon

Apr 29, 2012

 If you remember how Watergate unfolded, this fictionalized character study will read much easier than if you know it only as a political chronology. 

The author has flipped common perspectives about the era on end, and in this novel presents the Watergate events through the lenses of individuals caught up in the relentlessly growing scandal.  Mallon tells the story as it unfolds, without an omniscient narrator, and through people we know mostly second-hand, people who never wrote memoirs, like Fred LaRue and Rose Mary Woods…and Pat Nixon.   A few individuals you’d expect, like Richard Nixon himself, and E. Howard Hunt are included, of course.  The surprise observers in Mallon’s Watergate are Elliot Richardson …and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who is absolutely the most enjoyable and surprising of all.

Mallon is not providing retrospective narratives.  His novel offers contemporaneous reactions from each individual’s unique perspective as the situation evolves….and deteriorates.  The result is personalized stories of hubris and humiliation, distraction, distrust, mistakes, loyalty, and Washington’s biggest game always: political posturing.  Mallon’s Watergate uses these unusual perspectives – almost as if he had found a secret diary for each of these people -- to round out the enormity of the scandal.  Mallon leaves it to the reader to draw any conclusions.  In that manner especially,  this is a satisfying tale. 

Truly visceral Nixon haters (my husband included) might want to skip this.  The apoplexy could be fatal!


Reviewed by Library Staff