One of the best biographies of Elizabeth ever.

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ELIZABETH

THE FORGOTTEN YEARS

The Whitbread Award–winning author delivers an outstanding biography of Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603).

This page-turning book is history, biography, scholarship personified, and a crystal-clear look at Elizabeth in the war years that erases the myths and presents the real woman. Historian Guy (Henry VIII: The Quest for Fame, 2014, etc.), who is exceedingly well-versed in Tudor studies, deconstructs original sources, chooses which of many are more likely to be true, and shows Elizabeth as a vain, paranoid queen who endorsed torture and fought for her rights and privileges. Well-read, intelligent, fluent in French and Italian, Elizabeth believed she was beloved, but all her subjects could see were unproductive harvests and widespread poverty and disease. Among other primary sources, William Camden’s Annales, completed in Latin in 1617, is Guy’s best target. The author takes apart Camden’s statements as deeply biased and the English translation as pure bowdlerization. In 1584, the assassination of Prince William of Orange began the wars with Spain that would last the rest of Elizabeth’s life. The defeat of the first Spanish Armada in 1588 was only a short reprieve from the constant depletion of her treasury, as she also supported Henry IV of France against Spain and the Catholic League. Manipulated—and at the same time, likely saved—by Chief Minister Burghley and her spymaster, Francis Walsingham, she struggled to assert herself. It was Burghley’s contrivance of Mary, Queen of Scots’ death that brought Elizabeth to what the author calls her “Armada of the soul.” Her responsibility for the execution of an anointed queen haunted her for the rest of her life. During her 45-year reign, she learned how to get around those who disagreed with her, but she never succeeded in controlling some of her favorites. Near the end, Guy’s comparisons to Richard II, the usurped king, the usurper Bolingbroke, and Shakespeare’s play take your breath away.

One of the best biographies of Elizabeth ever.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-78602-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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