Not for readers seeking an emotional account of the inner life, but a bracingly frank look at the realities of being a...

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INTERESTING TIMES

A TWENTIETH-CENTURY LIFE

The noted British historian’s tough-minded autobiography.

Born in 1917, Hobsbawm grew up in Vienna as a child of the polyglot, multinational Jewish middle class. His parents were both dead by the time he was 14; he spent a few years in Berlin, where he began his 50-year engagement with communism, before moving to England with an aunt in 1933. His father had been an English citizen, and young Eric won a scholarship in 1935 to Cambridge, where he formally joined the CP. Hobsbawm doesn’t write much here about his personal affairs, concentrating instead on lucid historical analysis of places and institutions with which he was associated and brief sketches of his comrades in political activism. A chapter on “Being Communist,” in contrast to the passionate, often embittered memoirs of many American radicals, depicts the party in unsentimental, unglamorous terms, stressing the “discipline, business efficiency . . . and a sense of total identification” that inspired him and his fellows to serve an organization they understood was dedicated to armed revolution, not democratic procedures. This may explain why he did not leave the party after the revelations of Stalin’s barbarism in 1956, though he took advantage of his position as one of England’s most prominent Marxist historians to openly criticize it. Admirers of such groundbreaking books as Primitive Rebels and The Age of Revolution will be disappointed that Hobsbawm says little about his work as one of the generation of remarkable scholars who transformed the study of history by insisting on the importance of ordinary people’s experiences, though there are brief character sketches of such peers as Fernand Braudel and E.P. Thompson. Neither of his two wives gets even that much space, and chapters on France, Spain, Italy, Latin America, and even the Wales community in which he vacationed for many years discuss their social and political structures more than his personal reactions to them.

Not for readers seeking an emotional account of the inner life, but a bracingly frank look at the realities of being a 20th-century radical.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-42234-X

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2003

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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

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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