Nothing too compelling, but this epistolary testament to a close friendship will surely appeal to Child fans.



The letters exchanged between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto from 1952 to ’61, as the former was creating the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961).

During many years of research, culinary historian and biographer Reardon (M.F.K. Fisher Among the Pots and Pans, 2008, etc.) had collected most of DeVoto’s letters to Child, but it wasn’t until 2006, when the Avis DeVoto papers were unsealed after 30 years archived in a Cambridge library, that she read those written by Child. Of the more than 400 letters they mailed to each other between 1952 and ’88, Reardon has selected those that capture the first nine years of their friendship, making only minor adjustments (accents for French words, punctuation for clarity). Child’s letters were written from the myriad cities where her husband was stationed for his work in the U.S. State Department: Paris, Marseille, Washington, D.C., Oslo and elsewhere; DeVoto’s were all postmarked in Cambridge, Mass. The women’s correspondence began when Child wrote to DeVoto’s husband, journalist Bernard DeVoto, praising his Harper’s article about knives, and it was Avis, not he, who responded. Living in Paris, Child had been consumed by an obsession with French food and was teaching cooking classes and writing a book on the subject. She sent the first draft to Avis, who played a vital role in getting it published. Even before they met in person, DeVoto and Child formed a bond strong enough to qualify as “soul mate[s].” Rooted in a shared love of great food, their exchanges cover recipes, family news, all the quotidian ins and outs of their lives, emotions, enthusiasm for the book and all the many trials of finding it a publisher and seeing Julia’s endeavor brought to light in America. The letters are detailed, engaging, witty, warmhearted, and immensely honest, and the women's comfort in their friendship is evidenced by the total lack of pretense and the vast quantity of letters they shared, most of which are signed off with love.

Nothing too compelling, but this epistolary testament to a close friendship will surely appeal to Child fans.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-41771-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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 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 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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