A satisfying recollection of a literary life well-lived.

READ REVIEW

THE PIGEON TUNNEL

STORIES FROM MY LIFE

An esteemed novelist offers alternately wry and haunted ruminations on a life of literature and intrigue.

In his 80s, le Carré (A Delicate Truth, 2013, etc.), the author of espionage-themed bestsellers and a Cold War–era member of British intelligence, seems keenly aware that his life blurs into his fiction. In this memoir, in which he pointedly uses his real name, David Cornwell, the author acknowledges the difficulty of teasing biography from a life devoted to novel writing. “Pure memory remains as elusive as a bar of wet soap,” he writes. “Or it does for me, after a lifetime of blending experience with imagination.” He avoids strict chronology in favor of a loose, episodic structure that outlines his work’s real-world influences and allows him to consider his evolving views on patriotism, geopolitics, the lives of writers, actors, directors, and rogues (specifically his con-man father), and other topics. He offers nuanced looks at unnerving times, especially regarding his intelligence work in West Germany; he argues that the soft reception given ex-Nazis fed leftist terrorism by young Germans decades later. Le Carré captures the creeping crises of the Middle East via the pursuit of a cagey Yasser Arafat, which inspired his novel The Little Drummer Girl: “After Arafat, anything else feels normal.” Similarly, the author contrasts his experiences in perestroika-era Russia with the robber-baron 1990s. He wonders, “were the new crime bosses the old ones in new clothes?” while expressing rueful nostalgia for his old-school adversaries. “I met two former heads of the KGB in my life and liked them both,” he writes. Le Carré also thoughtfully captures the tenor of his friendships with many luminaries (Alec Guinness, Richard Burton, Joseph Brodsky) while soft-pedaling old animosities (with the exception of traitor Kim Philby). Yet for all the cinematic glamour of le Carré’s experiences, reflections on the workaday realities of fiction writing may provide the most engaging aspect of this colorful valediction.

A satisfying recollection of a literary life well-lived.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2077-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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?

more