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Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years



"Sly and penetrating . . . Mallon is a poised storyteller who traffics in history's ironic creases. His novels don't upend conventional wisdom so much as remind us that history is a rickety architecture of human endeavor—that today's statues commemorate yesterday's frail and fumbling mortals . . . 'Finale' represents Mallon's most audacious and important work yet . . . Mallon's portrayal of the first lady is humane, thoroughly convincing and counts as one of the book's triumphs. So is his presentation of Richard Nixon, with whom 'Finale' opens, rather unexpectedly . . . As in his previous novels, Mallon works deftly with an ensemble cast, employing both real-life and fictitious characters … [a] galloping narrative. "
—The New York Times Book Review
"[A] scintillating comic epic of politics . . . sit back, chuckle and laugh aloud at a feast of catty lines that evoke zinger-rich films like 'The Women' and 'All About Eve'
. . . Literate levity . . . Mallon follows his troupe across thousands of miles, capturing what happens with rapier wit . . . Mallon focuses on character, and to great effect.  Drawn with insight and sometimes compassion, they are not caricatures."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Thomas Mallon has carved an impressive place for himself in the art of 'historical fiction,' a genre whose august forerunners include Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' and Lampedusa's 'The Leopard' . . . Mr. Mallon has cautioned, in the author's note to his earlier novel 'Dewey Defeats Truman' (1997): 'Nouns trump adjectives, and in the phrase "historical fiction" it is important to remember which of the two words is which.' He handles the distinction expertly, but part of the pleasure of reading him is deciding when the author is fudging historical fact. 'Finale' offers a certifiable slice of the recent past but teases its readers with subtle fictionalization . . . It is high-calorie stuff, and Mr. Mallon handles it with an easy mastery."
—Wall Street Journal
 "The kind of novel Washington loves . . . anchored in historical events and oozing withering assessments of real-life people, many of them still alive . . . This is a political novel, but it's a story about the limits of human ambition . . . Wicked good, that Thomas Mallon."
—Washington Post Book World
"This populous novel of the Reagan Administration takes place late in 1986, during the disastrous arms negotiations with the Soviets, the escalation of the AIDS epidemic, and the mushrooming Iran-Contra affair. Though the book revolves around Reagan, he remains a remote, hard-to-reach figure; it is through the richly imagined perspectives of an orbit of insiders—including Richard Nixon, Christopher Hitchens, and a restless, astrology-hooked Nancy Reagan—that we see these crises unfold. As the crises converge, Nancy wonders, "Could the great ocean liner of the presidency come off the sandbar and begin to sail again?" Mallon offers a useful reminder that Presidential reputations often improve with the passage of time."
—The New Yorker
"Thomas Mallon's latest historical novel, 'Finale,' picks up effortlessly from his last.  And 'Watergate' (2012) is a tough act to follow . . . [Mallon] devotes a huge amount of attention to the 1986 Reykjavik arms summit between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, an event he captures right down to the white Reagan raincoat, with the president's behavior made extremely suspenseful by its blow-by-blow inscrutability . . . Mr. Mallon, as usual, does a fine job of distributing expository dialogue among the politicians, gossips and operators who fill these stories.  Much to Mr. Mallon's credit, every issue that the book takes on is illustrated with great clarity  . . . 'Finale,' like its predecessor, transports the reader back to a time before scandals were named or reputations were frozen in time."
—The New York Times
"Mallon's 'Finale:  A Novel of the Reagan Years' is full of witty, sometimes withering and often surprisingly sympathetic portraits of the characters clustered around the ever-unknowable president."
—Chicago Tribune
"A splendid example of the genre at its best . . . Mr. Mallon isn't just a gifted novelist; he also has a sound working knowledge of Washington ways . . . even characters he never met are portrayed with both merciless accuracy and sympathetic imagination. Mr. Mallon has a way of channeling the public figures he writes about, and an astoundingly good ear for dialogue."
—Washington Times
"What consumes the astute and well-informed Mr. Mallon is political give-and-take, both domestic and international.  His theatrical novel brings to life historical figures who long ago became historical footnotes . . . a book that reads like a divertissement, but resonates far deeper . . . Mr. Mallon's vivid take on this period in American politics rings true.  He effectively gets inside his characters' heads, too.  The one head Mr. Mallon doesn't get inside, except in a brilliant epilogue at the very end, is Mr. Reagan's own—which is eerily appropriate, even faithful."
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette    
"In Finale, Mallon impressively blends his singular knowledge of political history with his limitless imagination to capture an era."
—Philadelphia Inquirer
"Gorbachev, Thatcher, the Gipper himself—the gang's all here and ready to party like it's 1986 in this propulsive and often very funny novel that portrays political upheaval through the eyes of some of recent history's most formidable players."
—O: The Oprah Magazine
"What a pleasure it is to enter the rough-and-tumble politics of Thomas Mallon's historical novels . . . The tone is elegiac, but the details are biting and often hilarious . . . Mallon's murderers' row of mostly historical figures make for terrific—if not wholly respectable—company.  [Christopher Hitchens], of course, was legendarily quick-witted, but it's Finale's women who really bring the heat.  Many feel like tributes to the gloriously acid-tongued stars of Reagan's Hollywood heyday . . . Mallon captures that uncertain tenor of the times while portraying the complex drama of high-level politics with real clarity and energy."
—The A. V. Club
"A dry wit and a keen eye for subtle insights . . . His renderings of Hitchens's tartness are dead on, and many of the one-liners about other figures zing off the page . . . .he has captured the mood and feel of the late 1980s perfectly.  And he offers many sound one-off contrarian judgments and revisions."
—National Review
 "In this "kaleidoscopic portrait of 1980s D.C.," Mallon has succeeded where so many have failed: he has produced a genuinely fun book about Washington, D.C. society. Subtitled A Novel of the Reagan Years, the story exuberantly recreates the two terms of the 40thpresident, from the end of the Cold War to the rise of the AIDS epidemic. Thatcher, Gorbachev, Carter, and a host of other boldfaced names show up, all of them crisply rendered, with one exception: Mallon is wise enough to stay clear of Reagan himself, who here is as bafflingly inaccessible as he was in life, a genial enigma to the end."
—The Daily Beast
"Mallon has become a master of political theatre . . . What makes [his] novels so much fun is the author's blend of historical exactitude with imagined reactions and machinations."
—Christian Science Monitor
"This interesting and well-written book focuses on 1986—a year that proved to be Reagan's annus horribilis . . . At the front of the book, writer Mallon gives readers a cast-of-characters list.  It teems with 99 characters—all but nine of them real-life people.  And what a real-life variety!"
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Like any historical novelist, Thomas Mallon can ride the fact train when he wants and jump off when he pleases, and perhaps only the most rigorous scholar of Reagan's time will know exactly where the research ends and the inventing starts.  But even readers who don't remember the waning days of the Cold War will find masterful performances, by the author and by his subject, in Finale."
—Dallas Morning News
"It may be a cliché, but Mallon is truly incapable of composing a bad sentence.  In fact, one of the novel's many joys is the beauty and elegance of its prose."
—Miami Herald
"Thomas Mallon has mastered the form . . . [Finale] is filled with delicious insight on high-stakes policy and bare-knuckled politics."
—Kerri Miller, Minnesota Public Radio
"Panoramic . . . Mallon has created a thoughtful and provocative novel that political junkies will enjoy.  In American politics, entertainment often trumps policy:  Finaleis highly entertaining."
"The transitions are seamless; there's a whirlwind of activity and abundant snappy dialogue. With his customary flair, Mallon has crafted a scrupulously researched novel that gives readers a front-row seat on world-changing events—a combination that proves irresistible . . . one of this country's major historical novelists."
—Booklist (starred)
"What Mallon does best is dramatize the bizarre '80s intersection of Hollywood and Washington, D. C., as equal weight is given to Merv Griffin and Eva Gabor as to Pat Buchanan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, creating in the process a crazy, quilted depiction of a contradiction-filled presidential administration."
—Publishers Weekly
"An intriguing, humorous, even catty backstage view of the Reagan presidency from an artisan of the historical novel."
—Kirkus Reviews(starred)
"Mallon, a longtime master at fictionally realizing history (Watergate), here takes on the 'Reagan years,' specifically 1986 . . . The book's centerpiece is the Iceland disarmament summit with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and the tension is manifest . . . [a] well-developed snapshot of an important year."
—Library Journal
"Thomas Mallon may be our generation's Allen Drury -- the top fictional chronicler of political life in Washington, D.C."
"As a stylist, Mallon is at the top of his game, and writes a keeper on almost every page."
—Washington Free Beacon
"Seemingly every human being associated in some way, at some time, with Reagan during his eight years as president, appears in this book . . . [Merv] Griffin is a great (albeit limited) character, not because we recognize him from life, but because the author makes him recognizable in fiction."
—Boston Globe
"Mallon savvily understands that Reagan's distance created a kind of de facto power gap, space for various players to scramble to define and improve their standing in Washington."
—The Barnes & Noble Review
"In his masterly ninth novel, Mallon (Dewey Defeats Truman, Watergate, Henry and Clara) again mines the archives to recreate a lost world . . . Finaleprovides a satisfying front-row seat for a backstage view of history."
—Brown Alumni Magazine
"Finaleis in many ways the biography that Reagan's official chronicler, Edmund Morris, set out to write but couldn't pull off. As a novel of politics, personality, and the ironies of history, Finaleis a must-read for students of the recent past and the contemporary moment."
"Fire up your political Wayback Machine for Finale. . . filled with witty repartee."
—Lincoln Journal Star
"Such strangeness at the pinnacle of power makes for material that one imagines few novelists could improve upon.  Yet Mallon does—and in a highly entertaining manner, by putting readers in the heads of his numerous historical players . . . Historical fiction needs good fictitious characters, as well, and Mallon serves them up . . . ."
"Chatty, clever, often deliciously wicked . . . Mallon's effort is pitch-perfect and razor-sharp."
—Cleveland Plain Dealer