Disasters change people. Wilson counts the ways, often effectively and affectingly.

SHADOW OF THE TITANIC

THE EXTRAORDINARY STORIES OF THOSE WHO SURVIVED

A biographer joins others writers swimming in the centennial vortex of the Titanic, which sank on Apr. 14, 1912.

Wilson (Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex, 2007, etc.) begins with the screams of the dying and ends with the sigh of the last survivor, Millvina Dean (just three months old on the night to remember), who died at 97 in 2009. In between he tells the stories of some of the 705 survivors—from the well known (like White Star Line managing director Bruce Ismay) to those unknown, except to Titanic scholars. Ismay’s controversial story, told more fully in Frances Wilson’s How to Survive the Titanic (2011), sits in the middle of the text, surrounded by those who, for the most part, survived in more conventional, socially acceptable ways: They were women, children, necessary crew members—or just plain lucky. Among the latter: teenager Jack Thayer, who leaped from the sinking vessel and somehow found a rescue craft, went on to write a memoir but took his own life in 1945. Wilson tells some other survivors’ stories in considerable detail, including that of Madeleine Force Astor, whose wealthy husband died that night; of some honeymooners; of Lady Duff Gordon, whose co-survivors in a virtually empty lifeboat declined the chance to pick up others in the icy water; of silent-film star Dorothy Gibson, featured in the first movie based on the disaster, Saved from the Titanic, which appeared just four weeks afterward. The author has kind words for Walter Lord, whose 1955 A Night to Remember started a second wave of interest. Wilson’s storytelling skills are up to the task, but his psychological ones sometimes send him off into the land of stretched analogies—as when he observes that Lady Duff’s stained kimono represents her stained character.

Disasters change people. Wilson counts the ways, often effectively and affectingly.

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7156-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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