Juicy literary history. The Wildes’ stories would have silenced the Prince in Romeo and Juliet, who said there “never was a...

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CONSTANCE

THE TRAGIC AND SCANDALOUS LIFE OF MRS. OSCAR WILDE

The little-known Constance Lloyd Wilde had some years of surpassing happiness with her gifted, controversial husband before scandal overwhelmed everything.

Former BBC arts producer Moyle (Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites, 2009) has a difficult task: keeping the focus on Constance when Oscar’s flamboyance, fame and flameout are so riveting. Mostly, she succeeds. The author begins in 1895 at a moment of great success and crisis: Oscar had two hits in the West End, but the scandal of his homosexuality was erupting, which would send him to prison for two years, destroy his reputation and career, and send his wife and two sons into exile to the continent, where they changed their surnames to Holland. After this emotional “teaser” of an opening, Moyle returns to tell the stories of her principals. Constance, whose wealthy father died when she was still a teen, suffered from her mother’s verbal and physical abuse. Nonetheless, she emerged as a bright, attractive, talented young woman whom Oscar met via her brother. Oscar, Moyle reminds us, had already lost one young woman—to Bram Stoker. Moyle carefully charts their courtship, marriage and parenthood. Initially, the Wildes were popular in society and helped each other in their work. Oscar was practicing journalism and writing poetry; Constance was involved in various women’s causes and wrote stories and essays. All looked well. Then…Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. Oscar’s sexual passion for him consumed them all. Moyle shows us a bright, trusting woman who remained devoted even in some of the darkest hours.

Juicy literary history. The Wildes’ stories would have silenced the Prince in Romeo and Juliet, who said there “never was a story of more woe.”

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60598-381-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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