STARRED REVIEW
March 2019

Landfall

By Thomas Mallon

Ross and Allie haven’t seen one another since a romantic evening after a 1978 campaign event in Texas, when Bush unsuccessfully ran for Congress. Decades later, when they reunite, Ross is a committed Bush supporter, while Allie questions the wisdom of the Iraq invasion. Their positions evolve, however, as Katrina and other events force them to recalibrate.

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Long before first lady Laura Bush mentions The Prime Minister, the fifth of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, readers familiar with his sextet of political works will have detected the similarity between them and Landfall, Thomas Mallon’s new book. Instead of Prime Minister Plantaganet Palliser and discussions of the Irish Land Tenant Bill, Mallon gives us the first two years of George W. Bush’s second term and its challenges, self-inflicted and otherwise, from the Iraq War to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

The writing style is the same, however, with a huge cast of characters and long conversations about politics. Amid the real-life personages, Mallon has added two that are fictional: Ross Weatherall, a director of the merged National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, where he is updating a 1938 Works Progress Administration guidebook on New Orleans; and Allison O’Connor, a civilian lawyer whom Donald Rumsfeld brings to D.C. to work at the National Security Council as “an assistant to a special assistant to the president.”

Ross and Allie haven’t seen one another since a romantic evening after a 1978 campaign event in Texas, when Bush unsuccessfully ran for Congress. Decades later, when they reunite, Ross is a committed Bush supporter, while Allie questions the wisdom of the Iraq invasion. Their positions evolve, however, as Katrina and other events force them to recalibrate.

Throughout Landfall, Mallon shifts perspectives among many characters, most notably Condoleezza Rice, portrayed as a relentlessly ambitious person who feels that if Prince Charles “could inherit his one lifelong job, she could be appointed to all of hers.” And he writes many scathing portraits of the era’s figures, including Barbara Bush, who, when she and George H.W. Bush call on dying former Texas governor Ann Richards, wants nothing more than to hurry the visit along.

If Mallon tries too hard to cram in references to every major news story of the day, Landfall is still a well-researched view of the jealousies and back-room dealings of early 21st-century American politics.

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Landfall

Landfall

By Thomas Mallon
Pantheon
ISBN 9781101871058

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