Beck Dorey-Stein – From the Corner of the Oval Office (3 stars)

Beck Dorey-Stein – From the Corner of the Oval Office

Former White House stenographer's memoir is a compulsively enjoyable read

As an official White House stenographer from 2011 to 2017, Beck Dorey-Stein's job was to transcribe every word the POTUS spoke for the annals of history. And indeed, the history books will have a great deal to parse through from that period: not just the unprecedented fact of America's first black president, but also Sandy Hook, Charleston, the Affordable Care Act, amongst many, many other era-defining events.

Dorey-Stein had a front seat for it all, and she recounts with obvious relish the incredible privileges she's given, from witnessing Obama's historic détente with Cuba to the perks of travelling on Air Force One. Her perspective is a valuable one, as she sheds lights on the pervasive gender imbalance within politics, as well as the hundreds of uncelebrated staffers who devote their lives to getting a single man from A to B.

That gravitas is at times let down by a belaboured preoccupation with some of the more salacious details from her tenure at the White House. Do we need to know – or particularly care about – Jon Favreau's sculpted abdomen ('Fav's abs')? Her obvious pride at being a 'cool girl' with lots of male friends (didn't Gone Girl dispel that heinous myth?) and an extremely toxic relationship with a rakish colleague also sets one's teeth on edge.

But historical significance is highly subjective, after all. Ultimately there is enough here to make Dorey-Stein's memoir a compulsively enjoyable read for politicos and non-politicos alike, if only to bask in the memories of the now seemingly halcyon days of the Obama presidency.

Out Thu 12 July on Bantam Press.

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