Fascinating proof that being a writer’s wife is a profession in itself.

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THE WIVES

THE WOMEN BEHIND RUSSIA'S LITERARY GIANTS

Intriguing collection of biographies of six extraordinary women who devoted their lives to their husbands’ art.

As Popoff (Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography, 2010) demonstrates, the extreme difficulty of surviving as a writer in repressive Russia reflected the formidable characters of each of these women. They fiercely adhered to the Russian philosophy that their husbands’ careers took precedence over all—even, to a point, their children. Their husbands ignored everything: government, money, survival and even family, although perhaps not Mother Russia itself. Taking in turn the wives of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Mandelstam, Nabokov, Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn, Popoff shows the nunlike devotion of these women. They took dictation, transcribed, suggested changes and even memorized their husbands’ works, and they sacrificed promising careers, gentle upbringings and even comfortable marriages to dedicate their entire being to the artists. Throughout their lives, they all suffered dictatorial suppression from the days of the revolution. Stories of papers hidden, lost and smuggled abroad indicate the massive difficulties of life in 20th-century Russia. Tolstoy decided to renounce his copyrights, forego all his properties and give everything to charity—except Yasnaya Polyana, the estate where he retired to write. At this point, his wife, Sophia, actually stood up to him. After 19 pregnancies, 3 miscarriages and 5 infant deaths, she still had children to feed and educate. While all the other wives silently suffered abject poverty, hunger and homelessness, Sophia would have none of it. For that, Tolstoy left rights to his work to another and to her only the estate. Even so, she worked the rest of her life to chronicle his works and organize his archive, devoting even her widowhood to promoting and preserving her husband’s legacy.

Fascinating proof that being a writer’s wife is a profession in itself.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60598-366-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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