A rowdy piece of work that makes moral high-mindedness and a bacchanalian approach to life seem a great fit.

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DIRTY DIPLOMACY

THE ROUGH AND TUMBLE ADVENTURES OF A SCOTCH DRINKING, SKIRT CHASING, DICTATOR BUSTING AND THOROUGHLY UNREPENTANT AMBASSADOR STUCK ON THE FRONTLINE OF THE WAR AGAINST TERROR

Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan unloads his prodigious rage and frustration about his country’s morally compromised part in America’s dirty little war on terror.

If Murray were as awe-inspiring a person as he believes himself to be, it would make for quite an astounding package—if only. The good news for readers of his scabrous political memoir is that he’s a good hand at telling a rollicking story, even if his sizable ego often obstructs the view. Sent to represent Her Majesty’s interests in Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, Murray (who had spent a fair amount of time as a foreign-service officer in Soviet bloc countries) was quickly repulsed by the barbaric level of human-rights abuses committed by the government. The horrors included everything from suspected dissidents being scalded alive to serial rapes of female civilians by a police force run rampant. Meanwhile, the government appeared to be little more than a cabal of corrupt gangsters who kept Uzbekistan’s people in a state of slave-like deprivation. No matter how many telegrams Murray sent to London informing his superiors of what was happening on the ground, he was invariably given the same answer: Uzbekistan is an important ally in the war on terror, and any abuses are caused by a natural fear of Muslim extremism. Murray is no fish-eyed scold, though. He favors good booze and women and has a gift for cockeyed humor. An uncompromising Scot clearly expert at his job, he’s also given to grade-school-level sexism and supreme self-satisfaction. What sets this book apart from most score-settling tomes by former politicos is that while Murray may be a pompous, conceited windbag, that doesn’t keep him from being absolutely right in his moral convictions.

A rowdy piece of work that makes moral high-mindedness and a bacchanalian approach to life seem a great fit.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4801-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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