Reading The Outsider is like listening to a grandfather recount his exploits in front of the fireplace: the narrative is...

THE OUTSIDER

MY LIFE IN INTRIGUE

Acclaimed thriller writer Forsyth (The Kill List, 2013, etc.) delivers a charming autobiography about his real-life adventures around the globe.

The author was raised during the Blitz, and he describes a childhood of routine bombardment, constant fires, and a tank parked in his backyard. Forsyth became obsessed with the Royal Air Force, and he eventually enlisted. But he seemed destined to write tales of suspense: he learned several languages, became a foreign correspondent, and traveled the world in search of stories. In Germany, he accidentally shared a drink with a Nazi war criminal. In France, he covered the near-assassination of Charles de Gaulle. In Nigeria, he found himself stuck in the middle of the Biafran War. The book is a patchwork of anecdotes told in the meandering style of an elder Englishman. Forsyth’s tales of derring-do are a pleasure to read, especially when coupled with his self-deprecating humor, but his most endearing quality is his ravenous curiosity, which pulled him from one exotic location to another. When he visited the Negev Desert, not long after the 1948 war, he interviewed an aged veteran who had spent decades fighting for the creation of Israel. “He stared for several seconds, then came alive, as if jolted by an electric shock,” writes the author. “I could have filled ten notebooks, but I just sat and listened to an old man who was sixty years of living history and who had seen it all.” Forsyth has also seen it all, and though his sometimes-rambling memoir has no overarching message, he explains how a dreamy London youth ended up writing some of the world’s most famous thrillers. When Forsyth recounts the moment he typed the title The Day of the Jackal for the first time, fans may find themselves misty-eyed.

Reading The Outsider is like listening to a grandfather recount his exploits in front of the fireplace: the narrative is occasionally long-winded and self-satisfied, but after living such an exciting life, Forsyth has earned his bragging rights.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17607-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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