Despite the compelling material, reading the book constitutes work. The text is not organized by topic, but rather chronologically from Meeting 1 through Meeting 79. The accounts of each meeting mix various topics, so that after digesting a paragraph about complicated Middle East negotiations involving Israel and Syria, readers must jump to a partisan Republican Party attack on Clinton, and then to a detail about the homework of daughter Chelsea..
This is not meant as a criticism so much as a heads-up for readers who decide to dive into this book.
Branch seems like a trustworthy guide not only to Clinton’s actual words, but also to his emotions as he spoke those words. Most of Branch’s editorial comments are respectful of Clinton. But Branch is not afraid to occasionally tell readers that, at a certain moment, Clinton seemed overly tired or a captive of wishful thinking or downright deluded.
Branch was not a blank slate when the sessions began. He and Clinton had become friendly in 1972, and even roomed together for a time, while seeking votes in Texas for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. Although Branch and Clinton had not seen each other for 20 years when the White House taping began, they retained a bond that could fairly be termed friendship.