An account of an extraordinary life, marred by excessive angst.



A former actress struggles with a bout of spiritual ennui in this memoir. 

Lewis (Between Men, 1995) had a life that most people would envy: she was married to a successful movie producer; enjoyed glamorous careers as an actress, model, and writer; and traveled the globe. However, in 2004, when she was in her 50s, she was struck with regret and furious at the prospect that she had squandered her promise: “Is this it? Is this the life I meant myself to have?” She stumbled upon a book, The Unquiet Grave by the literary critic Cyril Connolly, and she related to his desire for a house in France; later, she was invited to visit an English friend of hers in the French countryside. While there, she fell in love with an old, dilapidated château and decided to buy it as a summer home and oversee its much-needed renovations. The author’s husband was incensed, she says, but he reluctantly paid most of the cost of the house and loaned her a substantial sum for the repairs. Lewis’ memoir jumps back and forth in time, recounting a life of youthful adventure as well as her struggle to superintend an exasperatingly complex construction project. She tells of growing up in England, attending school in France, and eventually becoming a model, a minor actress in mostly B movies, and finally, a serious writer. Along the way, she rubbed shoulders with plenty of celebrities, including Roman Polanski, with whom she says she had an affair, and Orson Welles. The author’s prose is refined and worldly, and she memorably and candidly provides keen insights into the decades she inhabited; for example, her libertine response to her discomfort over the 1960s sexual revolution doubles as astute social commentary. However, some readers may find it difficult to truly empathize with her existential torment, which, given the enormous privilege that she’s enjoyed, seems disconnected from real, abiding struggle. Her life story is a truly fascinating one, and readers may be tempted to wonder why it’s the source of so much frustration.

An account of an extraordinary life, marred by excessive angst. 

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68245-082-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Regan Arts

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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