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March 6, 2016 | by  | in Books |
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Helen Clark: Inside Stories


Editors—Claudia Pond Eyley & Dan Salmon

Publisher—Auckland University Press



Biographies can be disappointing. They rarely keep their promise of allowing you to vicariously experience genius, fame, scandal. Some are salacious and self-aggrandizing (see: Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis). Others are bland and insincere.

What I found enjoyable about Inside Stories, however, is that Clark was not the sole contributor to the narrative. Instead, the book is a compilation of transcripts from interviews conducted by Eyley and Salmon with Clark’s fellow politicians, family members, friends, and mentors. Her life and career as a political juggernaut is discussed chronologically; beginning with her childhood in rural New Zealand and ending with her job as head of the United Nations Development Program.

On a totally simplistic level I loved the book because, for me, it’s gratifying to hear stories of women in positions of power. Especially when they center on a veracious and highly intelligent woman who is, according to a New Zealand Herald poll, the greatest living New Zealander. In a country where the gap between the sexes in economic participation and opportunities has widened in recent years, this book is significant. 

On a technical level the dialogue is at times a little stiff and unrevealing, although that could be expected given that the stories come from one-on-one interviews and are not presented verbatim. That being said, Inside Stories is (for the most part) a balanced and holistic insight into Clark’s life, a rare phenomenon in the biography genre.

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