Uneven, hauntingly revealing and gorgeously sad, these entries reveal a wife's desperate love and estrangement from her...

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THE DIARIES OF SOPHIA TOLSTOY

A lively reworked translation of Sofia Tolstoy's diaries, first published in Russia in 1978 and the United Kingdom in 1985.

Sixteen years younger than the already famous Russian novelist, as well as self-consciously less educated and worldly, Sofia Behrs was 18 when they married in 1862. For most of the next five decades the couple lived at his ancestral 4,000-acre estate at Yasnaya Polyana, a perennial bane to upkeep, especially as Sofia was absorbed in the care and education of their 13 children (several died of illnesses) while her husband was engrossed in his writing and fame. In this diary she kept from 1862 until her death in 1919 (her husband died in 1910), Sofia indicated early on troubling fissures between the two that grew wider and more perilous as the years passed. There was a large rift between Tolstoy's idealized version of family life and what Sofia learned was truly the case—his emotional coldness (which he made up in sexual ardor), disregard for the care of the children and belittling of her role in his greatness. “There are times in this useless life of mine,” she wrote in 1890, “when I am overwhelmed with despair and long to kill myself, run away, fall in love with someone else—anything not to have to live with this man who for some reason I have always loved.” Despite the domestic drudgery, she insisted on copying out his corrected pages, which kept her involved in his life and immersed in his artistry. “Nothing touches me so deeply as his ideas, his genius,” she wrote in late 1866, when she was copying War and Peace. However, the bitterness continued to seep in, as well as a yearning for “some personal happiness, a private life and work of my own”—and, above all, the desire to feel needed and have her love returned.

Uneven, hauntingly revealing and gorgeously sad, these entries reveal a wife's desperate love and estrangement from her brilliant but complex and troubled husband.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-199741-9

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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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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