Rachel Reviews: What Happened – Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Free from the constraints of running, she speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye; the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance; and the double standard confronting women in politics. The election of 2016 was unprecedented and historic. What Happened is the story of that campaign and its aftermath — both a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale for the nation. 

What Happened is exactly what its title implies: Hillary Clinton’s effort to, in her words, “try to explain how I understand what happened [during the 2016 presidential election], both the unexpected interventions that swung the race at the end, and the structural challenges that made it close to begin with.” It’s a long book – clocking in at just under 500 pages – but worth a read if you supported her candidacy or were disappointed with the election results. (Let’s be clear here: this book is not partisan.) What Happened revisits Clinton’s loss as the Democratic nominee in 2008, the four years she spent as Secretary of State, and then her eventual loss in 2016 – interspersed with observations and a critical eye toward how she’s portrayed in the media and in politics. When I read the book in 2017 – just under a year from Trump’s win – I still felt raw with missed opportunities (let’s be clear here, too, I am not partisan). But I believe that What Happened was Clinton’s attempt to process her own campaign loss, and it helped me in the same way. She is unflinchingly honest about her own shortcomings but also deservedly proud of her accomplishments – and one hell of a writer.