An intelligently illuminating biography and cultural history.

THE CASE OF THE MARRIED WOMAN

CAROLINE NORTON AND HER FIGHT FOR WOMEN'S JUSTICE

An eminent British historical biographer tells the story of how a mistreated wife and writer helped bring about reform to laws governing married women’s personal and economic rights.

In 19th-century Britain, when women like famed writer Caroline Norton (1808-1877) married, they automatically lost the rights to all their assets—including those they earned—as well as the legal rights to future children. Men owned everything and everyone, both literally and figuratively. Norton came to know these hardships intimately over her long, colorful life. The granddaughter of celebrated playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Caroline quickly earned a reputation for both her beauty and her wit. At 19, still in mourning over the death of her first love, she married George Norton, who became her lifelong nemesis. His cruelty manifested early on in the marriage, and he “took to kicking his wife, pushing and shoving her, when she displeased him in some way. These attacks would be accompanied by an admonishment generally referring to her lack of respect for her husband.” Rather than let herself become a victim, Caroline flourished in her other pursuits as the hostess of a salon that included such luminaries as Lord Melbourne, the young Queen Victoria’s political mentor. When Caroline finally left her husband in 1836, he charged her with adultery and took their children with him. Though she was in a precarious financial position, Caroline used her political connections, influence, and pen to champion the Infant Custody Act of 1839, which granted women custody of their children up to age 7. Over the next two decades, Caroline continued the fight for legal rights for women, engaging in battles for the right to divorce and laying the groundwork for legislation to protect women’s property rights. This engagingly written, rigorously researched book will appeal to both feminist historians and readers who enjoy well-crafted portraits of historical figures who deserve more attention.

An intelligently illuminating biography and cultural history.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63936-157-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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