My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I read non-fiction, which isn’t often enough, I tend to favor biographies or histories. I picked up Nichols’ detailed microscopic compilation of a critical year in the life of President Eisenhower based on a review my uncle wrote. Being born and raised and still living in Kansas, I have an understandable preoccupation with one of our most famous and respected residents.
The extent of Nichols’ meticulous research impressed me. His delivery of the facts and circumstances and thoughts of key players (gleaned from personal notes and diaries) brought me to the center of the conflicts and the crises. I queried many older friends and family on what they remembered of 1956 (since I wasn’t born until eight years later), most of whom were too young at the time to really remember the Suez Canal crisis.
That didn’t stop me from feeling an echo of the anxiety and the beginning of our national belief in ‘mutually assured destruction’ (MAD – a very apropos acronym, don’t you think?). Eisenhower’s early understanding of the true horrors of thermonuclear warfare paved the way for his campaign of waging peace, even at the expense of some short-sighted WWII Allies. (For a great glimpse into an early (and now classic) apocalyptic novel, please see Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank, originally published in 1959 – click here for my review).
While reading this book, I visited the website for the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. I learned the current exhibit entitled ‘Eisenhower: Agent of Change‘ ran until the end of January and the Library celebrates fifty years in 2012. As soon as I finished the book, I convinced my husband we needed to visit Abilene, since I could barely remember the last/first time I visited the Eisenhower Center (probably forty years ago or more). We spent a pleasant Saturday exploring the Museum, Library, boyhood home (intact and preserved on the grounds), the grounds and the final resting place of Dwight, Mamie and their son Doud (who died at the age of 3 in 1921).