Adds to the literature on the Roosevelts and Whitneys, but the father-son relationship holds more interest than the romance.

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QUENTIN AND FLORA

A ROOSEVELT AND A VANDERBILT IN LOVE DURING THE GREAT WAR

This dual biography recounts the lives and doomed courtship of Quentin Roosevelt, youngest son of Theodore, and Flora Payne Whitney.

Biographer Bishop (The Lion and the Journalist: The Unlikely Friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and Joseph Bucklin Bishop, 2011) examines letters, cablegrams, diaries and other sources—some still unpublished—to tell how these two scions of influential American families grew up, met and fell in love. Quentin (1897-1918) was the irrepressible youngest child in the large Roosevelt household. Energetic and curious, he had a deep interest in engines and machines (especially aeroplanes) and loved fiction and poetry. Flora (1897-1986), daughter of one of the wealthiest families in America, was raised largely by governesses among luxury and privilege. Bishop traces their relationship “from awkward adolescent acquaintanceship to impassioned love” through their engagement and Quentin’s death in an aerial battle. Well-written and novelistic, the book also brings to light unpublished material, helping augment the stories of two prominent American families. But Bishop’s emphasis on a year and a half of “exemplary love…authentic and full-bodied” between two 20-year-olds has a weak foundation. Reading their letters, there is little to distinguish their relationship from that of any other young couple separated by war, missing each other and fearing for the future. “I love you, dearest, and always shall” is something any lonely airman might write. More fruitful are Bishop’s speculations about how damaging Theodore Roosevelt’s high expectations for his sons were when combined with “a distorted, romanticized view of war.” (An interesting comparison here might have been made to Kipling and his son.) Sometimes, though, Bishop seems to romanticize war himself; he quotes—with no sense of irony or history—the tag “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (it is sweet and right to die for your country) after describing the Great War memorial tablet at Quentin’s school.

Adds to the literature on the Roosevelts and Whitneys, but the father-son relationship holds more interest than the romance.

Pub Date: April 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495253836

Page Count: 276

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2014

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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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