A minor story, to be sure, but very well told.

READ REVIEW

LILLA’S FEAST

A STORY OF FOOD, LOVE, AND WAR IN THE ORIENT

A bright if modest tale of stiff-upper-lip indomitability against deadly odds.

“This is a story of what large-scale history does to the small-scale people caught up in its events,” writes London-based journalist Osborne by way of introducing the saga of her great-grandmother Lilla. Born to colonial parents in China in the glory days of the empire, Lilla learned of the tragic side of life early on: her father killed himself when she was just short of three, ostensibly because he had been bitten by a rabid dog, more likely because his wife was in love with another man. Lilla married young and moved with her army officer husband, Ernest Howell, to India, only to learn that the match wasn’t quite heaven-made; even so, “in an almost childish way, she seems to have loved Ernie most when he wasn’t interested in her.” He died when his troop ship was sunk by a German submarine in 1915, and, Osborne writes rather archly, Lilla “played at being Ernie’s widow just as she had played at being his wife.” Returning to China, she lived comfortably until December 1941, when Japanese troops interned the European residents of Chefoo. Just shy of 60, Lilla had begun writing a cookbook some time earlier; now, imprisoned in Chefoo and later in the frozen northern Chinese city of Weihsien, she returned to it just to have something to do. The recipes aren’t much, notable mostly for their absence of any kind of spice, but they clearly must have been challenging to write; as the camp rations were systematically cut as the Japanese began to lose the war, as meat and flour and oil went by the wayside, “bringing herself to type out these recipes must have begun to feel like self-torture,” but also a curious exercise in hope. In all events, doing the work kept Lilla alive—indeed, she lived to be 100.

A minor story, to be sure, but very well told.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-345-46700-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

Did you like this book?

more