By Lily Rothman
September 29, 2016
IDEAS
Lily Rothman is a senior editor at TIME

It took 134 interviews and a decade for Russell L. Riley and his team at the University of Virginia to compile Inside the Clinton White House: An Oral History, a dense, valuable volume featuring everyone from Clinton secretary Betty Currie to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (not included: the Clintons themselves).

The book reminds us that most presidential history—scandals included—is more complicated than it seems. Take the era of Monica Lewinsky (also not interviewed): the President buried himself in foreign policy because “he didn’t want to go home,” the diplomat Nancy Soderberg tells Riley. If you’re looking for Hillary Clinton grist, the focus is on her milieu as First Lady. She comes off as a decisive woman who inspires loyalty as well as fear—and whose own history can’t yet be told.

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

This appears in the October 10, 2016 issue of TIME.

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