An enlightening, well-documented argument for why this novel is essential—will inspire readers to become acquainted or...

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MEG, JO, BETH, AMY

THE STORY OF LITTLE WOMEN AND WHY IT STILL MATTERS

A history of Little Women coinciding with the 150th anniversary of its original publication.

When it was published in 1868, Louisa May Alcott’s novel became an immediate bestseller. Encouraged by her publishers to write a “novel for girls,” Alcott set her coming-of-age-story of four sisters during the Civil War and loosely based their struggles and aspirations on her own experiences with her three sisters. For countless generations of young readers, it has remained a beloved favorite as well as an influential touchstone to scores of aspiring writers. Yet this quietly groundbreaking novel has had more than its share of lukewarm responses from literary scholars, and it appears less frequently on high school reading lists compared to classics by noted male authors. Rioux (English/Univ. of New Orleans; Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist, 2006, etc.) writes, “in spite of Little Women’s elevation to canonical status, scholars still do not sufficiently acknowledge how key Little Women has been to the development of women’s literary traditions in the United States and abroad. It has been a foundational text not only in the history of women’s literature but also in individual writers’ very conception of themselves as writers and artists.” The author devotes the first few chapters to Alcott’s family history and early writing career, touching on the similarities—as well as the striking differences—between Alcott’s family and the characters in Little Women. Alcott endured considerably more challenging hardships than those depicted in the novel, which continued to fascinate in its many forms. Rioux provides an overview of the various film, stage, and TV incarnations, from the 1933 classic with Katharine Hepburn as Jo to the 1994 version by Australian director Gillian Armstrong (Rioux’s favorite). From the 1970s onward, the novel continued to draw closer ties to the evolving women’s movement, and its themes of ambition and empowerment have influenced such contemporary TV series as The Gilmore Girls and HBO’s Girls.

An enlightening, well-documented argument for why this novel is essential—will inspire readers to become acquainted or reacquainted with this influential classic.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-25473-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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