A toff in HM’s bridewell, it’s toad-in-the-hole once more. Plan an escape. (8-page photo insert)




When last we heard of the adventures of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare (A Prison Diary, 2003), our noble prisoner had completed three weeks of his four-year sentence for perjury, forgery, and obstruction of justice. He’s back. Of course.

Prisoner FF8282, author of many fanciful adventures (Sons of Fortune, 2003, etc.), has been transferred from maximum security HMP Belmarsh. Now he records nine weeks at medium security HMP Wayland before heading for an open prison in 2001. Still not pleased with standard accommodations, he arranges with fellow inmates for extra bedding, laundry service, and bottled water. He dines on toad-in-the-hole, beans on toast, Spam, Weetabix, and marmalade. His Lordship is busy in the pokey, attempting to fashion a flower pot, refereeing cricket matches, getting his cell redecorated, watching Jane Austen on the telly, and checking out all of Shakespeare’s plays. (“Tonight, King Lear. If only the Bard had experienced a few months in prison . . .”) A man of some sensibility, he engages with another convict, soon to return to his native Colombia, in a scheme to get a fine emerald and a fine painting by the celebrated Colombian Botero. (The plan carries the only hint of suspense, so we won’t reveal if it works.) There are sketches of friendly inmates, like “Dale (wounding with intent), Darren (marijuana only), Jimmy (Ecstasy courier), Steve (conspiracy to murder), and Jules (drug dealing)” and visits from friends and family. Other than his conventional take on the events of September 11th, this is not terribly different from his previous outing (if that’s the right word). Archer is, understandably, still unhappy with the prison system; he has ideas for reform. His text is still larded with cricketer jargon indecipherable this side of the Atlantic.

A toff in HM’s bridewell, it’s toad-in-the-hole once more. Plan an escape. (8-page photo insert)

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-33098-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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


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

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