A crack biography of a man who was a preposterous enigma.

READ REVIEW

STALIN'S ENGLISHMAN

GUY BURGESS, THE COLD WAR, AND THE CAMBRIDGE SPY RING

A biography of “the most complex and enigmatic of the Cambridge Spies,” a group of men recruited during the 1930s to spy for the Soviet Union.

Guy Burgess (1911-1963) was well-born, well-educated, intelligent, and completely spoiled. Through his days at the Royal Naval College, Eton, and Cambridge, he fought to be accepted and, failing that, turned to outraging the bourgeois. In the 1930s, Cambridge was an intellectual maelstrom, and students felt that their generation had to do something significant. Through societies such as the Apostles and the Cambridge University Socialist Society, the lure of communism provided an answer. Leaving school, many then got on with life, but Burgess and at least four of his friends ended up spying for the communists. His antics are legion, his drunkenness unceasing. The book is full of dramatically opposing visions of his personality, but one element that all agree on was his brilliance. Politics, sex, and gossip were Burgess’ main interests, all easily fed by his work at the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5, and MI6. Also well-fed were his Russian controllers, to whom he transmitted thousands of documents. In fact, he gave the Russians so many documents that many were never translated, decoded, or read. But Burgess was politically naïve, ignoring the failures of communism’s purges and communes. In this entertaining biography, literary agent Lownie (The Edinburgh Literary Companion, 2005, etc.) gives the impression that spying was almost a game for Burgess; deceit was integral to his life. At the same time, he was upfront about his homosexuality and, when drunk, often spoke of working for the Russians. He was never monogamous, cruel to his lovers, a natural liar, manipulative, louche, and slovenly, and he always did just what he wanted. He never had boundaries as a child, and even his mother said perhaps the Russian discipline might be good for him. Lownie amply demonstrates Burgess’ wily intelligence in navigating the spy’s life while often living so indiscreetly.

A crack biography of a man who was a preposterous enigma.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-10099-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

Did you like this book?

more