Despite occasional fictional flourishes, these forgotten friendships, from illicit and scandalous to radical and inspiring,...

READ REVIEW

A SECRET SISTERHOOD

THE LITERARY FRIENDSHIPS OF JANE AUSTEN, CHARLOTTE BRONTË, GEORGE ELIOT, AND VIRGINIA WOOLF

Rich and revealing portraits of four literary friendships.

Because female authors are so often “mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses,” Midorikawa and Sweeney (Owl Song at Dawn, 2016), both teachers at New York University in London, set out to uncover overlooked friendships. As Margaret Atwood puts it in the foreword, the authors successfully “retrace forgotten footsteps, and tap into emotional undercurrents.” The close relationship between Jane Austen and Anne Sharp would be lost if it wasn’t for Jane’s niece, Fanny, whose writings included much information about her governess, Anne, who liked to pen theatricals. It turns out Jane had “deep affection” for Anne, her “most treasured confidante.” Over the years, on and off, they “would find all sorts of ways to support each other’s endeavors.” Jane “treated Anne as her most trusted literary friend.” Charlotte Brontë and the pioneering feminist writer Mary Taylor were “good friends” despite quite differing personalities. Taylor was energetic and political while Charlotte was quiet and diffident. So when Mary wrote to her that Jane Eyre was “so perfect as a work of art,” she also criticized it “for not having a greater political purpose.” Despite disagreements and debates, they found a “space for themselves in the rapidly changing Victorian world.” When George Eliot heaped great praise upon Harriet Beecher Stowe (whose bestselling fame was greater than Eliot’s) for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Eliot received an unexpected letter from Stowe, which praised Eliot’s works, and a friendship was born. Until, that is, Eliot shockingly learned of Stowe’s published criticism of Byron for his incestuous relationship with his sister. It created a “frostiness” in their relationship, but it endured. Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield played a literary cat-and-mouse game with each other thanks to social differences and creative rivalry, but they remained friends.

Despite occasional fictional flourishes, these forgotten friendships, from illicit and scandalous to radical and inspiring, are revelations.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-88373-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

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

Did you like this book?

more