A sparkling family portrait and riveting history.

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THOSE WILD WYNDHAMS

THREE SISTERS AT THE HEART OF POWER

An elite family faces a vastly changing nation.

The three daughters of fabulously wealthy Percy Wyndham and his wife, Madeline, take center stage in Renton’s accomplished literary debut, a spirited and captivating history of the lives and loves of aristocrats in Victorian/Edwardian Britain. Drawing on letters, memoirs, histories, and abundant archival sources, the author creates a richly detailed tapestry featuring the three alluring Wyndham sisters: Mary (1862-1937), Madeline (1869-1941), and Pamela (1871-1928). They inhabited an opulent world. Among the family’s several residences was Clouds, an enormous sandstone-and-brick edifice boasting five reception rooms (the sky-lit central hall was two stories high), 25 bedrooms, two nurseries, and a separate wing for offices and bedrooms for the indoor staff, numbering around 30. At a time of social and economic upheaval, while other “landed elite” worried over maintaining their estates, “Clouds trumpeted to the world that the Wyndhams were founding a dynasty that would operate at the very heart of power.” It was a prime destination for clandestine political brokering, and an invitation to visit, Renton reveals, “was a prize indeed.” Madeline, in a flowing gown, smoking Turkish cigarettes, and festooned in scarves and bangles, was “a consummate hostess,” providing guests with masseuses, gymnastics classes, and “hand-bound copies of their favorite books at their bedsides.” Among those guests was a rarefied clique dubbed the Souls, “a group of very good, fiercely competitive friends, whether in romance, politics or friendship.” Extramarital romance flourished. Mary’s husband, a philanderer and gambler, flaunted his many mistresses. Mary’s liaisons included a relationship—not sexual, Renton maintains—with the prominent politician Arthur Balfour, who rose to become prime minister. Like so many aristocrats, Percy rued reforms that took power from the Lords. Political dissension, he believed, “simply proved how ill-suited the masses were to make decisions about the future of their country.” World War I, writes the author, finally drove an irreparable rift “between the generations that fought and those who sent them there, nowhere more so than among the elite.”

A sparkling family portrait and riveting history.

Pub Date: June 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-87429-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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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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