Clear, concise, well-researched and reasonable—a sensible, healthful lunch rather than a Roman banquet.

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AUGUSTUS

THE LIFE OF ROME’S FIRST EMPEROR

On balance, the 44-year reign of Caesar Augustus (63 b.c.–a.d. 14) had positive effects on Rome and its population. Unless . . .

Unless, of course, you were a slave, a woman, a resident of some distant tribe Rome wished to “civilize,” a political rival or a member of any other group penned in by the Pax Romana. Everitt has written elsewhere about notable Romans (Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician, 2002), and here he offers a balanced appraisal of Augustus, known earlier in his life as “Gaius,” then “Octavian.” Although reliable and unbiased documentary evidence for a biography of Augustus is scant, Everitt carefully sifts through what does exist and lets us know when he’s speculating, when he’s inferring. Some of the great names from ancient history appear in these pages: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Marc Antony, Horace, Virgil. We are reminded of the details about Caesar’s relations with Cleopatra, the Ides of March, Antony’s various “alliances” with Cleopatra (Everitt doubts the suicide-with-an-asp story), and readers confused by HBO’s Rome or by the Roman plays of Shakespeare and Shaw will find here the balm of knowledge. The author follows Augustus from his fortunate birth (his father was a senator; his great-uncle, Julius Caesar) through his youth and education, his uncertain trials in battle (he seemed always to fall ill when swords began clanging), his increasing confidence and political savvy, his lifelong and quite complementary friendship with Agrippa, his long rivalry with Antony, his marriage to Livia, his emergence as princeps, his rule, his aging, his disappointments and losses, his death. Everitt periodically (and generally unobtrusively) offers mini-seminars on Roman food, clothing, religion, bathing, sexual mores, coming-of-age rituals (including a young man’s first shave—the deposito barbae). Although the author declines to dwell on ancient parallels with our own age, readers will notice many, including, for example, the determination of rulers to silence dissent during a military crisis.

Clear, concise, well-researched and reasonable—a sensible, healthful lunch rather than a Roman banquet.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-6128-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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

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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

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