Casts some light on a dark and sanguinary age. (8 pp. color illustrations, b&w illustrations throughout, not seen)

QUEEN EMMA AND THE VIKINGS

A HISTORY OF POWER, LOVE AND GREED IN 11TH-CENTURY ENGLAND

A politically savvy woman marries two English kings and gives birth to two others in the early Middle Ages.

Thousand-year-old documents are few and uniformly biased, images of the principals are rare or non-existent and the relevant buildings are long gone or much altered, but journalist O’Brien neither quakes nor vacillates as she peers back into the darkness and relates for us the compelling story of a remarkable woman who became “the wife, mother and aunt of England.” (William the Conqueror was her great-nephew.) The author begins in the spring of 1002 as the teenaged Emma is departing from her home in Normandy to marry England’s King Aethelred II. O’Brien simultaneously introduces us to her narrative technique: she launches each chapter with a fairly detailed present-tense narrative, necessarily speculative, about the events she will deal with in a more subdued and scholarly fashion in subsequent pages. The device works well, for these opening segments are invariably more engaging than the subsequent discussions of documents and other historical evidence. The 11th century was a bloody and a religious epoch, a time when Vikings raided the English coast and interior, when important men had names like Ironside and Blue Tooth and Harefoot, when people cherished the arm bones and heads of saints, when wolf’s milk was recommended to reanimate a dead baby in utero, when most people lived in squalor and ignorance and fear, when a Viking could split with his axe the head of the Archbishop of Canterbury. To her credit, O’Brien keeps the focus as much as possible on Emma as she moves from queen to widow to queen to widow to queen mother. She lived to be about 70, quite elderly for the time, and was able to look back on a varied life of riches, humiliation, suffering, subterfuge and, finally, peace.

Casts some light on a dark and sanguinary age. (8 pp. color illustrations, b&w illustrations throughout, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-596-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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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

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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