For the general reader, an account of a president who fiddled while the ingredients for a major conflagration assembled...

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1858

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, JEFFERSON DAVIS, ROBERT E. LEE, ULYSSES S. GRANT, AND THE WAR THEY FAILED TO SEE

An idiosyncratic survey of the American political scene as the clouds gathered for Civil War.

The 1856 election of President James Buchanan, the 1857 Dred Scott decision and the proposed pro-slavery, Lecompton Constitution for the new state of Kansas threatened to settle the slavery issue in America, perpetuating forever the peculiar institution that had made the Founders squirm. In 1858, the direction of the political debate changed. Against the backdrop of Buchanan’s fecklessness, Chadwick (The General and Mrs. Washington, 2006, etc.) focuses mostly on personalities and incidents headlining the antislavery movement’s pushback. The already notorious John Brown’s Christmas raid into Missouri and the story of the Oberlin Rescuers both received national press attention, inspiring abolitionists and enraging the South. New York Senator William Seward, in speeches appealing to a “higher law” than the Constitution and warning of an “irrepressible conflict” ahead, positioned himself as the most prominent antislavery elected official and the likely presidential nominee for the Republicans in 1860. Meanwhile, Seward’s good friend, Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis, solidified his position as the South’s foremost defender and spokesman. In a series of debates during the Illinois senate race—memorably detailed in Allen Guelzo’s Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America, 2007—Abraham Lincoln made a national reputation for himself and destroyed the hope of the formidable and fence-straddling Stephen A. Douglas for higher office. Throughout the tumultuous year, Buchanan remained in deep denial, preoccupied with foreign policy and visions of territorial expansion, and more concerned with settling intra-party scores, especially with the fiery Douglas, than with effectively governing the nation. In other chapters seemingly less harmonious with his larger thesis—but forgivable for a writer incapable of dull storytelling—Chadwick looks at the pre-war careers of Robert E. Lee and William Tecumseh Sherman, two unknowns in 1858 destined for later fame.

For the general reader, an account of a president who fiddled while the ingredients for a major conflagration assembled before his eyes.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4022-0941-3

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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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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