The lengthy wink-and-nudge footnotes are more rewarding than the wishy-washy main narrative.



Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, speaks—guardedly—in this gossipy, sympathetic account of marital shenanigans by a British broadcaster and self-confessed insider.

Having written a short account of Philip’s life with his help and approval on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 2002, Brandreth can hardly be considered an unbiased historian of the facts he musters here into a larger, more detailed volume. He admires the stoic, irascible Prince Consort and believes “he deserves to be better understood.” Before they get a chance to do that, however, readers must first wade through a maze of incestuous genealogy. Philip and Elizabeth are cousins, both descendants of Queen Victoria: he via Louis of Battenberg, transliterated to Mountbatten in 1917 in the interests of patriotism; and she through her father, who became George VI upon the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936. Brandreth follows their fairy-tale romance in the early ‘40s, when the slim, fair, handsome Royal Navy officer first caught teenaged Elizabeth’s eye. They married in 1947; the births of Charles (1948) and Anne (1950) preceded the death of George VI and their mother’s spectacular coronation in 1952. Victoria’s consort had worked closely with the queen, serving effectively as her confidential assistant, but Philip was told to keep out of the way, as the monarchy had changed from an executive power to an institution with which he “had to fit in.” Another emasculating blow arrived when Elizabeth took her prime minister’s advice and gave their children her family name, Windsor, rather than Mountbatten. Though shy as a child, sheltered and happy in the company of her dogs and horses, Elizabeth confidently assumed the role of queen, while Philip, relegated to the sidelines, became “scratchy.” Brandreth devotes pages to speculations about the Prince Consort’s marital fidelity, aspiring to “nail the issue once and for all”; in the end, he limply concedes that Philip likes the company of larky young “playmates.”

The lengthy wink-and-nudge footnotes are more rewarding than the wishy-washy main narrative.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-393-06113-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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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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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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