First-rate research, writing and presentation.

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Whirlwind & Storm

A CONNECTICUT CAVALRY OFFICER IN THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION

A scholarly biography of a midlevel Union officer’s short, dramatic life.

This spotless debut is a personalized account of the Civil War years and a work of significant original scholarship. Farnsworth is a lawyer by training, but if this were a thesis, his meticulous analysis of previously unexplored primary source materials and extensive background research could earn him a degree in history. He mines a family heirloom, the papers of his great-grandfather Lt. Col. Charles “Charlie” Farnsworth, born in 1836. Charlie, an ambitious young Norwich, Connecticut, resident, skipped college to pursue business and gold prospecting. After war came, Charlie volunteered and used family connections—his father was Gov. William Buckingham’s personal physician—to win promotions. He led a battalion, was wounded and recovered, rebuilt an Army base in Baltimore, returned to battle and was captured. After eight months in Richmond’s Libby Prison, he was paroled, demoted and honorably discharged. He broke off an engagement, married his true love, and used connections to President Abraham Lincoln to become one of the first Northern investors to enter Reconstruction Georgia, where he started a commodities exchange and rice plantation. In 1867, with his wife seven months pregnant, he drowned at age 31. Charlie’s impetuous temperament, outspoken manner, social position and extensive documentary record create a unique lens through which to view the times. Numerous books stitch together “voices” culled from soldiers’ letters, but few capture entire lives. Full biographies usually feature top military or political leaders. Yet Charlie, though he ranked high enough to have well-known connections, still retains a sense of the Everyman. Farnsworth’s supple narrative of Charlie’s life, including black-and-white photos, illustrations and maps, takes up less than a third of the book. The rest includes the appendix, nearly 500 footnotes, a bibliography of 100 secondary sources and an index. Farnsworth consistently places Charlie’s travels and observations in the context of contemporaneous events and mainstream historical opinion, all while telling the story unsentimentally, highlighting strengths and flaws. The entire trove of 135 personal letters, diary entries, and other documents by or about Charlie appear in the appendix, with Farnsworth’s comments about each. Reading them makes his preceding synthesis all the more impressive.

First-rate research, writing and presentation.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491719626

Page Count: 450

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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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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