Intelligent, well-written and scrupulously honest, but off-puttingly self-involved.

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MY LIFE AS A RUSSIAN NOVEL

A MEMOIR

French novelist/screenwriter/journalist Carrère (I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey Inside the Mind of Philip K. Dick, 2003, etc.) recalls two fraught years that took him to Siberia and ended a love affair.

Heavy drinking, infidelity, questions about meaning and identity, white nights in the long northern summer—it’s a Russian novel in subject matter, but the author’s approach is decidedly French: minute analysis of each emotional up or down, brutal frankness about his (and others’) less-than-admirable behavior that recalls Flaubert or Stendhal. In 2000, Carrère traveled with a film crew to the provincial town of Kotelnich for a news story that later turned into an open-ended project for the French National Film Commission. Since he had no real plan for the project, he mostly hung around aimlessly with the locals—experiences that are sharply described in the memoir’s least solipsistic scenes—while obsessing over two loose ends in his life. The first was the fate of his grandfather, a Russian immigrant to France who disappeared in 1944, presumably killed in reprisal for collaborating with the Germans. Carrère’s mother, a distinguished French intellectual, begged her son not to write about her shameful father. Believing that she “denied us the right to our suffering,” he did it anyway. This would be less distasteful if the author’s motives didn’t seem to be entirely selfish, which is the impression also created by his account of his tortured relationship with Sophie, the second loose end. The couple had great sex, but everything Carrère writes—including a semi-pornographic story he published in Le Monde, instructing his lover to read it on a train ride and follow its instructions—backs up Sophie’s anguished belief that he was uninterested in her job, her friends and her life, embarrassed by her lower social status and intent on controlling her every move. She had an affair, became pregnant and eventually married another man. Readers will most likely conclude that Carrère deserved Sophie’s payback.

Intelligent, well-written and scrupulously honest, but off-puttingly self-involved.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8755-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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.

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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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