Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

May Books 16) Half-Life of a Zealot, by Swanee Hunt

The autobiography of the activist daughter of America's richest man, and how she moved from the rabid right-wingery of her privileged background to using her unearned wealth for philanthropy, particularly supporting women in public policy, which brought her to a four-year spell as US ambassador to Austria. But it's also about her attempts to mix her messianic political drive with a decent family life for her husband and children, particularly when her daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Swanee Hunt is obviously a believer in letting it all hang out. Knowing her a little from the Balkan circuit, the book rang true to my experience of her and explains her character, almost too well (it might have been just as good a book with one or two fewer accounts of her love affairs with her therapists). But she is of course in an extraordinary position; having been gifted with vast amounts of money but very little love from her father, she seems to have felt driven to prove herself by using what she had been given (whereas if I suddenly became a billionaire, I would mostly sit in the garden all day reading science fiction). Nancy Mitford fans will appreciate the similarities and differences between Hunt's experiences in Vienna and Fanny's situation in Don't Tell Alfred.
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Tags: bookblog 2010, writer: swanee hunt

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