Another winning biography from Lee. Those who love Fitzgerald’s work will tuck this book right next to her volumes.

READ REVIEW

PENELOPE FITZGERALD

A LIFE

Lee (President/Wolfson Coll., Oxford; Biography: A Very Short Introduction, 2009) devotes her considerable talents for biography to Penelope Knox Fitzgerald (1916-2000), who didn’t publish her first book until the age of 58.

The author presents the story of Fitzgerald’s initially charmed life and her days at Oxford in the wildly political 1930s, where she discovered John Ruskin and William Morris, her intellectual heroes. She was preceded at Oxford by her mother, her father, the editor of Punch, and his brothers, and that earlier generation set a standard for intellectual writing that Penelope inherited. Her husband, Desmond Fitzgerald, was equally talented but eventually drank away his career and life. For a time, the couple endured abject poverty, at one point living on an old barge in the Thames. Those two years were the subject of the Booker Prize–winning Offshore (1979), which depicted their perpetually damp home, which required a high tide to flush the toilet. That adventure ended when the boat sank with all her notes and papers. Fortunately for readers, Lee had access to the copious notes Fitzgerald made for each of her books. Even for works of pure fiction, she researched the smallest, seemingly insignificant facts. Lee’s biography will provide a vivid portrait for those who have not encountered Fitzgerald’s work and will prove immensely satisfying for her many fans. The author reproduces pieces of her subject’s writing at (occasionally too-) considerable length, but Fitzgerald’s mastery of phrasing and the beauty of her work should lead readers back to her books, particularly The Bookshop (1977), which was shortlisted for the Booker, or The Blue Flower, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998.

Another winning biography from Lee. Those who love Fitzgerald’s work will tuck this book right next to her volumes.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-35234-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more