Readers interested in 19th- and early-20th-century society, especially that of the upper classes, will enjoy this picture of...

A HOUSE FULL OF DAUGHTERS

A MEMOIR OF SEVEN GENERATIONS

Nicolson (Abdication, 2012, etc.) traces seven generations of women connected to the Sackville Wests.

Beginning with her great-great-grandmother Pepita Duran (1830-1871), the flamenco dancer known as the Star of Andalusia, and her doting, if not smothering, mother, the author follows the relationship between mothers and daughters through the generations. Once diplomat Lionel Sackville-West fell under Pepita’s spell, she rejected her mother and lived as his mistress. She adored her illegitimate children despite being ostracized from polite society, including Lionel’s. When she died in childbirth in Arcachon, near Bordeaux, the children were scattered, until Lionel needed a hostess for his posting to the United States. His daughter Victoria stepped in and was a brilliant addition, winning her way into the society surrounding the estate at Knole. She married her cousin, who would inherit the estate, and the difficult birth of Vita ended any semblance of happiness in the marriage. Vita and Harold’s marriage was as happy as it was unconventional: both had lovers of the same sex, she more than he. Her son and daughter-in-law Philippa carried on the family, and Philippa extended the nonmaternal lines that had progressed through the years. This social history and story of family relationships is also the tale of Knole, the ancestral home, and its magnetic hold on those women. In the same light is the pull of Sissinghurst, the home bought by Vita and her husband, Harold, when she was unable, as a woman, to inherit Knole. The first half of the book portrays strong, if flawed, women, while the ending is more autobiographical and, while well-written, more cathartic than interesting.

Readers interested in 19th- and early-20th-century society, especially that of the upper classes, will enjoy this picture of the privileged life, “where loyalty, respect and equality are all held in the highest regard.”

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-17245-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020

OPEN BOOK

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. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

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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