A good complement to Slavomir Rawicz’s The Long Walk, Primo Levi’s The Truce, and other accounts of wartime dislocation.

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INHUMAN LAND

A WARTIME JOURNEY THROUGH THE USSR

A sharply observed account of war behind the Russian lines from an accidental observer.

Czapski (1896-1993) had the misfortune of being caught between larger armies at the time of the Hitler-Stalin pact that divided his country. Thousands of his Polish comrades were executed in the Katyn Forest, an atrocity that he investigated after the war; for his part, he and thousands of other soldiers were sent to the gulag deep inside Russia. When Germany attacked Russia, Czapski and his fellows were freed to join the Allies, but their newly constituted Polish army had to get across the Soviet Union and into territory occupied by friendlier allies. His account of how they made their way to Iran and then to British-occupied Iraq makes up the heart of this book, reporting on things seen and heard along the way as well as on life in the camp: “There was never enough medicine, as in these circumstances even quite large stocks ran out at lightning speed.” Along the way, Soviet agents took away officers of the command, some, it was said, to staff an alternate version of the army for an occupied postwar Poland, but some for other purposes: “Studying Lenin, and one or another, more or less sincere or calculated game with the Bolsheviks, had not been of any help to that dear, lost boy.” The author sees things through an artist’s eyes, sometimes offering arresting images, sometimes simply chronicling the destruction of the Eastern European art world between two brands of totalitarianism (“his synthetic sculptures of cats and birds were worthy of Brancusi,” he writes of one long-forgotten comrade) and its replacement with something else: “I did not see a single picture that wasn’t atrocious or hopelessly mediocre,” he writes of the rising wave of socialist realist art. His reports are astonishing portraits of life in wartime Russia, when many anti-communist Russians welcomed the Nazi invaders and were only too glad to participate in ethnic cleansing.

A good complement to Slavomir Rawicz’s The Long Walk, Primo Levi’s The Truce, and other accounts of wartime dislocation.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68137-256-3

Page Count: 460

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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

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.

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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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