Edward Frederic Benson (1867-1940), clever, sociable, and film-star handsome, published 65 books—including novels, memoirs, histories, and texts on Ping-Pong and ice-skating—and innumerable ghost stories, essays, reviews, and plays, his effortless production attracting both enough admirers to form the E.F. Benson Society with its newsletter, Dodo, and such talented biographers as Masters—whose 17 books—including lives of Rabelais, Camus, Moliäre, and one mass murderer—help him understand this prolific writer. However affable and charming on the surface, Benson apparently was as secretive, compulsive, egocentric, and sexually dysfunctional as his siblings. They included a sister who killed herself in an insane rage; a Roman Catholic monsignor who fantasized being beaten by Italian police and feared being buried alive; and another brother who was besieged by demons of melancholia and guilt—all of them writing obsessively about themselves, repulsed by human touch, idealizing the kind of hypothetically chaste homosexual relationships their mother preferred after the death of their broodingly depressive father, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Intellectually a trivialist, Benson studied Greek archaeology, mastered figure-skating, visited Capri with various young men, and ended up as the mayor of Rye. His major inventions: David Blaise, a faintly disguised account of his own schoolboy romances; Dodo, whose ``artful prattle'' influenced the expression of youthful society in 1893; the silly and sentimental Lucia and the ``malevolently curious'' Miss Mapp, both the subjects of a series of novels; and an evocation of Edwardian society in As We Were. With respect and sympathy, Masters explores the mania behind Benson's prolific writing—the conflicting motives to express himself and to deflect attention from his own anguish; his drive to control ``the overloaded circuits of his brain,'' writing for therapy, for concealment, for compensation, and producing, ironically, a terrible sense of futility and of unfulfillment. Masters creates a haunting and poignant story of misconstrued literary success, his pace, light touch, and elegant style evocative of Benson himself.

Pub Date: March 15, 1992

ISBN: 0-7011-3566-2

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Chatto & Windus/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992

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


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 eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


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

Did you like this book?