A fresh history that profits from its psychological insights.

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PHILIP V OF SPAIN

THE KING WHO REIGNED TWICE

A biography of a manic-depressive, but surprisingly successful, king.

Kamen (The Spanish Inquisition, 1998, etc.) presents an absorbing tale of the first Spanish king from the Bourbon line, which rules the country today. He focuses on three aspects of Philip’s reign: his state policies, his family concerns, and his psychological problems. On the domestic front, taking the cue from his grandfather, Louis XIV of France, Philip reformed Spain’s antiquated structure of government, streamlining tax collection and tightening the political bonds between the various Iberian kingdoms and Madrid. Unfortunately, however, the gains from these reforms were squandered by Philip’s belligerent foreign policies, which led to the War of Spanish Succession (a short-lived invasion of Sardinia) and other devastating mishaps. The author paints Philip as a cosmopolitan in an inward-looking court. He eschewed Spanish nobles’ advice, kept French and later Italian counselors, and was often totally dependent on the two wives he had over the course of his 46-year reign. This last point surfaces because, Kamen argues, Philip had bipolar disorder. During low periods he refused to wash and spent months sleeping by day and conducting official business in the middle of the night, sometimes refusing to talk so that his queens had to speak for him. During high periods, on the other hand, especially during wartime, he was the consummate leader. These episodes contributed to Philip’s decision to abdicate, a chapter of the king’s life Kamen could have examined more closely and at more length. Philip’s son died shortly after being installed, however, and the father returned to the throne. Despite the ill fit between king and kingdom, Kamen argues that Philip made Spain’s first moves towards becoming a modern state. The foreign art and architecture he brought into the country revitalized the Spanish court. Even his failed military enterprises had an upside: by committing Spanish troops (successfully or not) to European campaigns, Philip forced the other powers to take his country more seriously.

A fresh history that profits from its psychological insights.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-300-08718-7

Page Count: 269

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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

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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

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