In This Review

There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-first Century
There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-first Century
By Fiona Hill
Mariner Books, 2021, 432 pp.

Hill deftly combines three books into one to great effect. She begins with a riveting memoir of her childhood in northern England in a family and community plunged into poverty by the shutdown of her hometown’s coal mines. She escaped by excelling in school and grasping every snippet of opportunity that came her way, eventually building a career in the United States as a Russia expert. The story is told without the smallest whiff of victimhood about the barriers of class and gender she encountered. The book also offers a compelling analysis, based on her experience living in Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, of the conditions that breed populism. She finds striking similarities among the trajectories of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom from the rule of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to the Brexit referendum in 2016, and the United States, with its spiraling inequality and loss of opportunity, in the years leading up to Donald Trump’s presidency. In all three, “the infrastructure of opportunity” disappeared, producing the growing anger and cultural despair that create an appetite for authoritarian leadership. Finally, Hill recounts her time serving on Trump’s National Security Council. This is not a kiss-and-tell account, but what she does relate of her interactions with the president is in every case worth telling, as is her insight that Trump’s fragile ego made him a national security risk, vulnerable to the flattery of any foreign leader. The political extremism that continues to grow in the United States in the aftermath of Trump’s 2020 electoral defeat could, Hill fears, make his years in office “seem like a preface, rather than a postscript” to the country’s “democratic demise.”