In This Review

Memoirs
Memoirs
By Jo Grimond
Heinemann/Holmes & Meier, 1980, 315 pp

Four generations of business, politics, and philanthropy have made the Rockefellers, along with the Roosevelts and the Washington-Lee dynasty, one of the most important families in American history. David Rockefeller is now the unquestioned chief of the clan, and the publication of his memoirs will have everyone from conspiracy theorists to urban planners to art aficionados to foreign policy experts scanning the pages. Here they will find a self-portrait that is revealing without being confessional. The book's most delightful passages cover his youthful travels in Europe and his war service; the most moving sketch the conflicts and reconciliations of an often troubled family; and the most interesting describe the various crises that shook Rockefeller's world to its foundations in the 1970s. The nadir came in 1976, amid the economic malaise that threatened the New York City economy, Chase Manhattan Bank, and the family's real estate holdings. As hostile articles appeared in the financial press, the Chase Manhattan board of directors openly questioned Rockefeller's leadership, and close friends warned him he had only a year to turn the bank around. Meanwhile, the painful confrontation that set his generation against the radical politics of the Vietnam era still festered, and his brother Nelson saw his presidential ambitions destroyed when Gerald Ford dumped him from that year's Republican ticket. Understatement, often wry, is one of the author's characteristics, and these memoirs make abundantly clear that if Rockefeller inherited what he calls the distinctive "Aldrich nose" from his mother, his sense of duty and his steely will come straight from the patriarch.