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Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography

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A shocking portrait of the 1980s, America, and the woman whose position helped shape the values and policies of the Reagan administration. Through over 1,000 interviews collected during four years of exhaustive research and reporting, Kelley reveals Nancy Reagan as a superb public performer, a vain, materialistic social climber, a bitter foe and formidable strategist--an A A shocking portrait of the 1980s, America, and the woman whose position helped shape the values and policies of the Reagan administration. Through over 1,000 interviews collected during four years of exhaustive research and reporting, Kelley reveals Nancy Reagan as a superb public performer, a vain, materialistic social climber, a bitter foe and formidable strategist--an American phenomenon. Photographs.


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A shocking portrait of the 1980s, America, and the woman whose position helped shape the values and policies of the Reagan administration. Through over 1,000 interviews collected during four years of exhaustive research and reporting, Kelley reveals Nancy Reagan as a superb public performer, a vain, materialistic social climber, a bitter foe and formidable strategist--an A A shocking portrait of the 1980s, America, and the woman whose position helped shape the values and policies of the Reagan administration. Through over 1,000 interviews collected during four years of exhaustive research and reporting, Kelley reveals Nancy Reagan as a superb public performer, a vain, materialistic social climber, a bitter foe and formidable strategist--an American phenomenon. Photographs.

30 review for Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    David J. Andrews

    I read this book mostly to gross out my Republican friends. The Reagan myth is alive and well and the damage he did to our country is just now beginning to be understood. His heir is George W. Bush (and the father was not much better). All this Reagan nostalgia is petty awful. Kitty Kelly got it right. The Reagans were all hype and no real ability or accomplishments. Maybe we can now move on and leave this sorry history behind.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kate Loveton

    I am giving this book four stars because I think it was well researched. All of it rings too true. But heavens! What a long and tedious read about a manipulative woman who cared more about her clothes and image than she did about her children or other family members. And the great romance between she and Ronald Reagan? Mrs. Reagan, a former B actress, was playing the role of a lifetime, and the mild mannered Ronnie (who called her ‘Mommy’ - UGH!) allowed her to distance him from family and frien I am giving this book four stars because I think it was well researched. All of it rings too true. But heavens! What a long and tedious read about a manipulative woman who cared more about her clothes and image than she did about her children or other family members. And the great romance between she and Ronald Reagan? Mrs. Reagan, a former B actress, was playing the role of a lifetime, and the mild mannered Ronnie (who called her ‘Mommy’ - UGH!) allowed her to distance him from family and friends. I lost a great deal of respect for Mrs. Reagan after reading this book. And some for Mr. Reagan, too.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sull

    Excellent but depressing book about a woman who just didn't get it. Her childhood explains this, perhaps, a time & place where appearances, even deceptive ones, were all, and reality was no fun. Kitty Kelley is good at finding the nasty, dangerous needle in the sweetly-scented haystack. Nancy Reagan must have hated this book, if she ever read it, which I strongly doubt. Addictively readable and surprisingly depressing.... Excellent but depressing book about a woman who just didn't get it. Her childhood explains this, perhaps, a time & place where appearances, even deceptive ones, were all, and reality was no fun. Kitty Kelley is good at finding the nasty, dangerous needle in the sweetly-scented haystack. Nancy Reagan must have hated this book, if she ever read it, which I strongly doubt. Addictively readable and surprisingly depressing....

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo-Ann Murphy

    Wow! These people have no redeeming qualities. I worked under the Reagan administration and saw they devastation they created but still had positive feelings about them personally. It was obvious from their children they were not good parents, but I know many fine people who are lousy parents. I realize now it was more than just bad parenting. This book pointed out what good actors the two of them were. They may not be academy award worthy, but they were certainly good enough to fool a nation. T Wow! These people have no redeeming qualities. I worked under the Reagan administration and saw they devastation they created but still had positive feelings about them personally. It was obvious from their children they were not good parents, but I know many fine people who are lousy parents. I realize now it was more than just bad parenting. This book pointed out what good actors the two of them were. They may not be academy award worthy, but they were certainly good enough to fool a nation. Two totally shallow people who have no clue what is important in this life or for the good of the country. Ms Kelly has done a tremendous amount of research on a very difficult topic. I like her books because she has done her homework and documented her findings. It shows in this book. Definitely a worthy read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stanley

    Read This After Nancy Davis Reagan Funeral I was astounded by the ostentatious (pomp and circumstance) of the Nancy Davis Reagan funeral. I thought it as false and vulgar as her and her husband's life as written by Kitty Kelly. I will never understand the veneration and admiration bestowed upon this vile and repulsive couple. Their awful occupation of the White House in the name of the United States' citizens might now be forgotten. I truly hope so. This is a well written, well documented history Read This After Nancy Davis Reagan Funeral I was astounded by the ostentatious (pomp and circumstance) of the Nancy Davis Reagan funeral. I thought it as false and vulgar as her and her husband's life as written by Kitty Kelly. I will never understand the veneration and admiration bestowed upon this vile and repulsive couple. Their awful occupation of the White House in the name of the United States' citizens might now be forgotten. I truly hope so. This is a well written, well documented history of a vile couple as attested to by even their own children. I really empathize with them and their travails growing up. I normally don't read this type of book but I was drawn to it by the bootlicking sycophantic media coverage. A fascinating read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    a.novel.femme

    SO DELICIOUSLY TRASHY. its exactly what i want to read when its hot outside and im getting drunk. nancy reagan lies about her age! steals tons of designer clothes and other peoples husbands! bangs frank sinatra! controls ronald! hates her children! ahhh. deeply satisfying.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    Nancy comes off as a home wrecking whore who falls in love with the equally duplicitous, ladder climbing, back stabbing actors guild president who turned colleagues into the McCarthy commission and also became the governor of California and later....The first actor in chief. Nancy's morality is encapsulated in 'Just Say No' simplicity. She's a lingering dolt that expouses a rigid moral code about other people's private lives while she herself proudly struts around as a moral home wrecking whore. Nancy comes off as a home wrecking whore who falls in love with the equally duplicitous, ladder climbing, back stabbing actors guild president who turned colleagues into the McCarthy commission and also became the governor of California and later....The first actor in chief. Nancy's morality is encapsulated in 'Just Say No' simplicity. She's a lingering dolt that expouses a rigid moral code about other people's private lives while she herself proudly struts around as a moral home wrecking whore. I can only come to the conclusion that Nancy Reagan (and beloved Ronny) were clueless bitches that justified their cheating whoresome ways, under the mantle of love and fidelity when the truth was.... Well you know... They were cheating homewrecking whores that made it to the White House. I completely recommend this book! It has some juicy insider information concerning Nancy and her astrologer that helped shape our international policy. Still fondly reminiscent about Ronny and Nancy's occupation of the White House? Well, you'll probably read this tome and wanna rub one out over the Constitution and the Gettysburg address. Maybe that's the only way we'll be able to feel good about the legacy Ronny, his wife and the political pundit croney's from Fox News have left us. Thanks Nancy! You bring out the Thomas Jefferson in me!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    What delightful trash reading! Best 99 cents I ever spent!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tom Rowe

    Wow! Just wow! The Reagans have never been an exciting read, but Kelley's book is a real page turner. She brings Nancy Reagan to life. I can actually see her as a real person while reading this. I was expecting sensationalism from this, and I got that, but I also got a sense of someone who was extremely vulnerable and self conscious and who struggled to keep up appearances above all else. After reading this, you may either put Mrs. Reagan in the role of a Machiavellian manipulator, or a scared l Wow! Just wow! The Reagans have never been an exciting read, but Kelley's book is a real page turner. She brings Nancy Reagan to life. I can actually see her as a real person while reading this. I was expecting sensationalism from this, and I got that, but I also got a sense of someone who was extremely vulnerable and self conscious and who struggled to keep up appearances above all else. After reading this, you may either put Mrs. Reagan in the role of a Machiavellian manipulator, or a scared little girl who found herself only through playing a part to try to fit in.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pam Bergeson

    This book was an excellent read. Nancy Reagan was an insecure social climber, who used people all her life to get ahead. She was cheap, a bigot hating both Jews and Blacks, and a terrible mother. Her daughter, Patti, hates her. There is not much redeemable about her. Poor woman was angry and never figured out what makes a person happy. It's a side of her she didn't want the public to know about. This book was an excellent read. Nancy Reagan was an insecure social climber, who used people all her life to get ahead. She was cheap, a bigot hating both Jews and Blacks, and a terrible mother. Her daughter, Patti, hates her. There is not much redeemable about her. Poor woman was angry and never figured out what makes a person happy. It's a side of her she didn't want the public to know about.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I really gained a tremendous insight into Nancy Reagan and her relationship with her husband, Ronald. Interesting stuff about her tenure in the White House and how she was perceived by the help. Many interesting stories, including her threats against Kitty Kelley for writing this expose.

  12. 4 out of 5

    James Carter

    If you want to meet a sick, disgusting, and twisted fuck, then I present Nancy Reagan, an image-conscious champion of face lifts and shopping sprees who only cared about her place among socialites at the cost of her family, friends, and acquaintances. And if selling your mother and children would be all that's required to have a five-minute audience with the Queen of England, then, by God, Nancy Reagan would do it. Nancy Reagan had Ronald Reagan's balls in a vise-grip, and he, who grew senile du If you want to meet a sick, disgusting, and twisted fuck, then I present Nancy Reagan, an image-conscious champion of face lifts and shopping sprees who only cared about her place among socialites at the cost of her family, friends, and acquaintances. And if selling your mother and children would be all that's required to have a five-minute audience with the Queen of England, then, by God, Nancy Reagan would do it. Nancy Reagan had Ronald Reagan's balls in a vise-grip, and he, who grew senile during the 2nd term, was so weak and people-pleaser to do anything about it that she consequently ran the presidency during most of his years at the White House. Their decisions were often guided by several astrologers; to have an idea of how it went on is to watch the scenes with astrology in This Is Spinal Tap because it was just exactly that. The crusade against drugs? Ha! Never once did she believe in it so much that Paul Newman refused to be associated with her. It was all about the image, nothing more. Who cares about the true causes of the day? She had no time for all of that because they interfered with her shopping and socialization with some of the richest people in the world. Everything, as long as they looked good and were extremely valuable, was happily received by Nancy Reagan, but in return, she barely spent any money on gifts and often recycled them if they didn't meet her standards. She regularly broke laws by failing to declare her gifts and forced others, namely the taxpayers often to the tune of millions of dollars, to pay for her whether it was a house, a bunch of people working on her hair, makeup, and clothes; a closetful of expensive, one-time wear clothes, and a personal jet but failed to repay her gratitude to them. Because of Nancy Reagan, her four children lived in Mommie Dearest hell minus the physical abuse and bipolar behavior. She basically rejected them, and that's why they turned out to be a mess. After their days at the White House were over, the Reagans proceeded quickly to cash in their presidency and became multi-millionaires as a result. At the same time, they left behind the most corrupt administration in U.S. history, enriching the wealthy and corporations alike while leaving the poor and minority groups behind. The 80's was an era of the AIDS epidemic, and the Reagans basically ignored it because they didn't care about the homosexuals, thinking to do so would be bad for their fake conservative image. All in all, Charles Caleb Colton said it the best: "It is easier to pretend to be what you are not than to hide what you really are; but he that can accomplish both has little to learn in hypocrisy."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christine Grant

    I read this book a decade ago and really enjoyed i t. I didn't necessarily believe everything that Ms. Kelley wrote but I still found it an entertaining read. To be fair, I followed this book with Nancy's book "My Turn" and enjoyed that just as much if not more so. I read this book a decade ago and really enjoyed i t. I didn't necessarily believe everything that Ms. Kelley wrote but I still found it an entertaining read. To be fair, I followed this book with Nancy's book "My Turn" and enjoyed that just as much if not more so.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wilhelmina

    I was quite curious what made this woman tick. The answer? Everything and everything that involved money $$$!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alycia

    By far the best of the Kelley biographies

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lyg

    TL;DR: Horrid book. Like a tabloid newspaper. Nancy Reagan was quite an interesting character. While I have always loved Ronald Reagan as a person very much, his wife has never held much warmth in my heart. Just watch Don Rickles' performance at the second Inaugural Gala and you'll get a glimpse of the difference between Mr. and Mrs. Reagan. That being made clear, my opinion on this book? Absolute rubbish. It would seem that this Kitty Kelley spent her research time on the sole purpose of digging TL;DR: Horrid book. Like a tabloid newspaper. Nancy Reagan was quite an interesting character. While I have always loved Ronald Reagan as a person very much, his wife has never held much warmth in my heart. Just watch Don Rickles' performance at the second Inaugural Gala and you'll get a glimpse of the difference between Mr. and Mrs. Reagan. That being made clear, my opinion on this book? Absolute rubbish. It would seem that this Kitty Kelley spent her research time on the sole purpose of digging up dirt and heaping it on. The result is a slanderous heap of words that, while perfectly suited to tabloids and gossip columns, should never have taken the guise of a respectable book. Ugh. Update: I came across this book in the process of it being thrown away. I saved it for reading, but you see how that went. It turned out better suited for another use- I turned it into one of those hollow book gimmicks to store things in. The content of the pages, now cut out, have made wonderful kindling. Great book after all.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Duncan Maccoll

    What can I say. Another well researched biography by Kitty Kelley. It reinforces all my prejudices and is an excellent companion to .The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty What can I say. Another well researched biography by Kitty Kelley. It reinforces all my prejudices and is an excellent companion to .The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty

  18. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    Nancy Reagan is a manipulative and hard woman.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bren

    Pretty trashy. I would not bother.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Commodore

    So, as with most unauthorized, basically gossip biographies, you cannot take all information given to you at face value. But after all the disgusting things the Reagans did (to the lower classes of Americans, to gay Americans suffering horribly during the AIDS crisis, to disastrous foreign policies with far reaching consequences to this day), as far as I’m concerned they deserve a muck-raking biography that paints Nancy as a grasping, scheming, hypocritical, fat-ankled social climber who relied So, as with most unauthorized, basically gossip biographies, you cannot take all information given to you at face value. But after all the disgusting things the Reagans did (to the lower classes of Americans, to gay Americans suffering horribly during the AIDS crisis, to disastrous foreign policies with far reaching consequences to this day), as far as I’m concerned they deserve a muck-raking biography that paints Nancy as a grasping, scheming, hypocritical, fat-ankled social climber who relied on White Woman Fragility to mask her machinations, and Ron as a genial dimwit who would sell out his own parents (and certainly his actor coworkers) if it got him even an inch ahead in life. Most fascinating is how much weird and dangerous shit about themselves they were able to hide and control the release of to the general public, even though this all wasn’t really that long ago. I listened to the audiobook, which has the rather delightful quality of listening to your normally very genteel granny lose it and spend 20 hours snatching Nancy Reagan absolutely bald. Highly recommended.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bianca1977

    I have to admit: I did not finish this book. My husband took it home from a second hand shop and the Reagans being mostly from before my time, I was curious about their story. And of course I knew that this writer was not going to give me an neutral version of the events, but I did not expect her to be this vile. Maybe it’s also because of the dated Dutch translation I had, but it read like a really long, really boring article from a trashy gossip magazine. And I like trashy gossip magazines. Bu I have to admit: I did not finish this book. My husband took it home from a second hand shop and the Reagans being mostly from before my time, I was curious about their story. And of course I knew that this writer was not going to give me an neutral version of the events, but I did not expect her to be this vile. Maybe it’s also because of the dated Dutch translation I had, but it read like a really long, really boring article from a trashy gossip magazine. And I like trashy gossip magazines. But not in this form... Off to the paper waste bin with it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chele Hipp

    In this book, I learned that Nancy Reagan was: cold, mean, narcissistic, entitled, vengeful, spiteful, manipulative, cruel, oblivious, superficial, calculating, damaged, hypocritical, greedy, cheap, tacky, disloyal, and just a truly awful person. It was enlightening and a solid read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    I felt like the author was trying to only report on the negative aspects.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    very good read but at times long winded.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Deb Cat Lover

    What a horrible person she was.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sekya

    DNF. The author perfectly captures Nancy Reagan but this is another reason why celebs should not run for office in the US.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Betty Smith

    A well-written, gossipy if a bit prurient, read. I read this a few decades ago and, as I remember reading in the papers, Nancy had faxed (remember those days?faxes?) to her Bel Air home the day it was released the acknowledgments, several pages, of all those who gave interviews to the author or assisted in any way. I imagine those people were frozen out by Nancy for good. The public sensation was mitigated by her stalwart self-consolation that “this too shall pass” (I read.) She had already publ A well-written, gossipy if a bit prurient, read. I read this a few decades ago and, as I remember reading in the papers, Nancy had faxed (remember those days?faxes?) to her Bel Air home the day it was released the acknowledgments, several pages, of all those who gave interviews to the author or assisted in any way. I imagine those people were frozen out by Nancy for good. The public sensation was mitigated by her stalwart self-consolation that “this too shall pass” (I read.) She had already published her autobiography “It’s My Turn,” the title itself a warning to the press and enemies she’d battled, and it was roundly panned as defensive, bitter, insensitive to her children, tone-deaf. Kitty Kelley pointed out, “She thanked no one.” But, back to this book by Kelley: it took a lot of guts in those days to write something bordering on if not outrightly libelous. But, this did “pass” into minor oblivion, and in the years to come Nancy’s status steadily rose as she fiercely shielded the aged Alzheimer’s-stricken former President from the world, facilitating his comfort and decline into a legend to die at 93. She reconciled with her children. She gave several speeches and interviews. One of the last published pictures of her shows her in front of Reagan’s grave monument at Simi Valley, CA, seated in her wheelchair, frail as a sparrow at 94, in reflection and reverie.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pamfrommd

    Goodreads asks "What did you think?" I think my reading standards dropped dramatically after I read my first Kitty Kelley book earlier this year, My Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra. Enjoyed it immensely. Now I've just finished the Nancy Reagan book and I confess to loving every minute of it too. Junk food for the brain! The most hilarious line in the book, and there are many, was unintentional. In writing about Nancy's superstitious nature, Kelley wrote: "[Nancy] slept with her Goodreads asks "What did you think?" I think my reading standards dropped dramatically after I read my first Kitty Kelley book earlier this year, My Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra. Enjoyed it immensely. Now I've just finished the Nancy Reagan book and I confess to loving every minute of it too. Junk food for the brain! The most hilarious line in the book, and there are many, was unintentional. In writing about Nancy's superstitious nature, Kelley wrote: "[Nancy] slept with her head and feet facing north and frequently knocked on wood." There's an image I won't soon forget -- Nancy in her bed with her feet AND her head facing north.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The bookstore where I bought this biography advertised with a cardboard cutout of Nancy Reagan with a paper bag placed over its head. This prompted my eleven year old self to go in and purchase the 1000 page paperback about an old white lady who was vaguely remembered by one of her college classmates as having "a vast quantity of night creams." The bookstore where I bought this biography advertised with a cardboard cutout of Nancy Reagan with a paper bag placed over its head. This prompted my eleven year old self to go in and purchase the 1000 page paperback about an old white lady who was vaguely remembered by one of her college classmates as having "a vast quantity of night creams."

  30. 4 out of 5

    SWC

    I found especially interesting the background and childhood of Anne Francis Robbins (Nancy) until early adulthood. I liked the quote "It is easier to pretend to be what you are not than to hide what you really are, but he that can accomplish both has little to learn in hypocrisy." (Charles Caleb Colton) I found especially interesting the background and childhood of Anne Francis Robbins (Nancy) until early adulthood. I liked the quote "It is easier to pretend to be what you are not than to hide what you really are, but he that can accomplish both has little to learn in hypocrisy." (Charles Caleb Colton)

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