A necessary book for those who study dictators.




Goeschel (Modern European History/Univ. of Manchester; Suicide in Nazi Germany, 2009) examines the strained relationship—never a true friendship—between the two dictators.

Both Hitler and Mussolini served as corporals in World War I, and both seized power through brutal violence and apparently legal political activity. Their “new order” was based on replacing the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles. Both were anti-Bolshevik and anti-Jewish. While anti-Semitism was central to Hitler’s ideology, Mussolini believed in a strategy of racial exclusion, not extermination. Mussolini was a strategic model for the rise of Nazism as the driving force behind the attempt to reshape postwar politics and diplomacy. In Italy, the monarchy and papacy were maintained, curtailing a complete dictatorship, a fact that Hitler often criticized. Curiously, Hitler was the instigator of the alliance, which wasn’t signed until well after World War II began. As the author demonstrates, the relationship was never ideological; it was politically constructed and contained little substance. Tensions were constant, not only between the dictators, but also their nations; few Germans could forget that Italy deserted their alliance and fought against them. The rivalry manifested itself at all of the meetings, which were really about image. Hitler quickly dropped his hero worship of Mussolini and, as an all-powerful dictator, monopolized their short conversations and made the decisions. Mussolini doggedly pursued his goal to become the “determining weight” in the Mediterranean and continued to foster Italy’s détente with England, hedging his bets with brinkmanship and opportunism. Hitler’s method of diplomacy was to completely skip the bureaucratic machinations, make backdoor deals, and put every nation’s fate in his own hands. The author methodically follows the meetings through the years, from great shows of power and exorbitant expenditures to the secretive meetings at Wolf’s Lair late in the war, which were no more than summons to Mussolini to receive Hitler’s instructions. Ultimately, Goeschel skillfully exposes the relationship as that of two men who merely tolerated each other to amass power.

A necessary book for those who study dictators.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-300-17883-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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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.


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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