A wide-ranging, if occasionally uneven, biography of the women in one of America’s great political families.



Lodge tells the story of her famous New England family via biographies of her foremothers in this debut work of American history.

The Lodges and their close relatives the Cabots have long histories in the United States. The author is the granddaughter of U.S. senator and ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and the daughter of politician George Cabot Lodge. Her family tree is filled with other names associated with Boston Brahmins—families who landed in Massachusetts during the Colonial era and have been involved in American society ever since. This book is a family biography of sorts, focusing specifically on the female members of the Cabot and Lodge clans, dating back to 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts. Anna Cabot joined the two families together when she married John Ellerton Lodge in 1871. She was also a scrapbooker who preserved various details of life in mid-19th-century Boston and moved in the same social circles as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Nannie Lodge Davis (1851-1915) was a well-traveled woman who nurtured her husband’s political career and whom Theodore Roosevelt called “the closest America had to having a queen.” Bessy Davis Lodge (1876-1960), the scion of a New York City political dynasty, married into the Lodge family only to be widowed at 36; she lived another half-century, moving to Paris at the encouragement of authors Edith Wharton and Henry James. In these women’s life stories, a portrait of domestic life in the American upper class emerges, particularly during the era of American aristocracy that became known as the Gilded Age. The author’s book is thoroughly researched, relying heavily on letters and other primary-source documents. Lodge gives her subjects many opportunities to speak for themselves, where possible, and her own prose is both breezy and detailed, particularly when describing some of her ancestors’ playgrounds: “Tuckernuck, an almost deserted island in the Elizabeth chain in Buzzards Bay off Nantucket near Cape Cod, was a place of unimaginable beauty— sparkling sea, summer air, swallows winging over ocean grasses and sand dunes in apricot sunsets.” There are moments in which her rarified perspective may strike many readers as unrelatable, as when she notes that “Daughters of admirals will recognize themselves in Nannie Davis Lodge,” but the author is generally a capable and charming guide throughout this work. The narrative drags in some sections, and certain episodes and letters could have easily been omitted for the sake of concision. That said, there’s much here to engage readers interested in the history of wealthy, well-connected American families. As much as this book reveals about the Cabots and Lodges, it’s also a portrait of the United States in the late-19th and early-20th centuries—perhaps the last time that the country was so embodied by a single family. Also, Lodge’s biographies of these women here do much to fill in the gaps of a history that’s too often fixated on the men in their lives.

A wide-ranging, if occasionally uneven, biography of the women in one of America’s great political families.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-692-27008-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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