Much ado about nothing, though loyal fans will celebrate this work on the centenary of Anne of Green Gables’ publication.

LOOKING FOR ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF L.M. MONTGOMERY

Oblique, somewhat frustrating attempt “to piece together the fragments that inspired” the beloved Canadian novel.

Gammel (English and Modern Literature and Culture/Ryerson Univ.; Baroness Elsa: Gende, Dada, and Everyday Modernity, 2003, etc.) concentrates on the years from 1903, when the germ of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel Anne of Green Gables took root, to its publication in 1908. Maud, as friends and family always called her, kept notebooks while writing the book, but “only the distilled version that she wanted us to see was allowed to survive,” comments the author. She also edited her voluminous diary with an eye to publication: “her journal was the stage on which Maud performed her artful versions of the truth.” She acquired habits of secrecy and self-deception early, avers Gammel. Her mother died of TB when Maud was a toddler, her father left and she was raised by undemonstrative maternal grandparents on Prince Edward Island. Though her fiction enveloped the old homestead in misty nostalgia, it was more like a prison to the ambitious young writer, whose dreams of becoming self-sufficient and famous found stimulus in such popular magazines of the era as The Delineator and Godey’s Lady’s Book. Gammel doggedly pursues a clipping of a girl pasted in Maud’s journal and determines this “model for Anne’s face” to be teenaged Evelyn Nesbit, who made her living posing for artists before the Stanford White murder trial made her notorious. The author links the theme of “bosom friends” in the novel to Maud’s own intense female friendships, concluding that the writer was probably not a lesbian, but sexually frustrated in her subsequent marriage to the “sub-thyroid” (depressed) Reverend Ewan Macdonald. In the end, Gammel’s triumphant declaration of “the mystery of Anne revealed” is judiciously countered by Anne’s own assertion in the novel: “There’s such a lot of different Annes in me.”

Much ado about nothing, though loyal fans will celebrate this work on the centenary of Anne of Green Gables’ publication.

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-38237-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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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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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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