The pleasures here are in the slow accretion of detail—albeit too many details on occasion—and awareness that allows O’Neill...

BLOOD-DARK TRACK

A FAMILY HISTORY

An unwieldy family memoir that also yields some choice scenes, centering on a brace of grandfathers interned for suspected enemy sympathies, from novelist O’Neill (This Is the Life, 1991).

It is fascinating that both of O’Neill’s grandfathers were imprisoned during WWII on suspicion that they had aided the German war effort. What was the truth to these allegations that so disrupted these families, then and later? O’Neill visits the personal landscapes of the two men: one from Ireland and the other from Turkey, the latter a narcissist and petty tyrant to his family, a bit of a prig and a skirt-chaser, the former a picaresque member of the IRA. In writing that is somber, like a long day of rain, O’Neill conjures a portrait of the men: Joseph Dakad from Mersin, Turkey, a town of verandas and gardens and large stone houses, arrested in the Levant on charges that he was a possible spy, perhaps aiding the Jewish underground—but the more compelling case is that he was interned while on a lemon-buying trip for no better reason than he was Turkish. The cruelty of his jail time is excruciating to read, full as it is of suicide attempts, poisonings, and repeated threats of execution, all detailed in the testimony Dakad wrote after the three-and-a-half-year ordeal was over. Grandfather O’Neill’s internment is set within the context of IRA activity at the time of the war and the fact that he was a vibrant member of the Republicans. Nonetheless, their lives thereafter were shrouded in a secrecy that took a deep toll on the family and served as testament to living “in extraordinarily hateful and hazardous places and times,” one that required an understanding and forgiveness that both spurred and is a result of this book.

The pleasures here are in the slow accretion of detail—albeit too many details on occasion—and awareness that allows O’Neill to create an abiding image of a two places during a moment in history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-86207-288-4

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Granta

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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