Entertaining reading for anyone who enjoys politics.
This is a novel not about the Reagan Years, as the subtitle claims, but rather about Reagan’s period of decline. Although decline may be too strong a word.
Mallon captures the mood of the 80’s extremely well. Drugs, AIDS, the Cold War, these are his “main issues” in the background which he uses to set the tone of the political agenda at the time. He does it swiftly, always mixing the strictly political with the personal touch by using individuals who epitomize those issues.
What I found more entertaining was his description of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. His construction of the Great Communicator character is subtle, at times complimentary, at times almost comical, but above all conveying the message that no one ever got to crack what Reagan was really about. In fact, not even his wife who throughout the book is depicted as a control freak who clashes furiously with whoever threatens to taint the legacy of his husband as a President.
Mallon throws in a few other fictional characters who carry the plot. That supporting cast makes the reading a bit heavy going, particularly if you are not very familiar with US politics.
A special word for the epilogue of this novel (not really a spoiler). I thought Reagan’s interior monologue when his Alzheimer was well advanced is crafty and at the same time respectful, a sort of tribute to the Great Enigma.