An astute psychological study enlivened by dry wit, eccentric characters, and informed analyses of 1930s England.

THE HAUNTING OF ALMA FIELDING

A TRUE GHOST STORY

An intriguing story of a man who vowed to find the truth within the murky world of psychical and paranormal research.

In her 2008 book, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, Summerscale chronicled the true story of a 19th-century detective who was devoted to solving a child's murder in an English country house and earned nothing but trouble for his efforts. In her latest, Summerscale, who has also won an Edgar and a Somerset Maugham Award, introduces us to a similar protagonist: Nandor Fodor (1895-1964), a Hungarian ghost hunter who worked for the International Institute for Psychical Research. In the 1930s, as England was mourning its dead from World War I and flinching at the possibility of a second, the practice of spiritualism, which was rapidly gaining in popularity, needed an honest man to investigate its claims. When Fodor heard about Alma Fielding, an English housewife who reportedly teleported objects and channeled spirits, he embarked on the difficult mission to prove Alma’s claims while preserving his own integrity and reputation. Their relationship forms the heart of the book. Fodor, writes the author, “accepted that Alma might be both truthful and dishonest, gifted and fraudulent. As the pressure mounted for him to prove his case, he demanded ever more of Alma—e.g., stripping naked before a séance to prove she wasn’t hiding anything. She resented his demands but kept accomplishing confounding feats. Fodor began to suspect that Alma’s past was the key to the present. The narrative is an intimate portrayal of two people locked in a complicated relationship, and while some readers may tire of Summerscale’s painstaking documentation of Alma’s paranormal activities, her sense of humor and clear style keep the pages moving. Despite a lack of definitive answers, plenty of interesting questions linger at the end of this fascinating book.

An astute psychological study enlivened by dry wit, eccentric characters, and informed analyses of 1930s England.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55792-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

MY BODY

The international model embarks on a nuanced investigation of her body and identity.

Ratajkowski’s exploration of fame, self-identity, and what it means to be a “beautiful” woman is surprisingly engaging. Originally thrust into the spotlight in 2013 due to her scantily clad appearance in the music video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the author eventually became known for her stances about beauty and sexuality and how they are commodified. Now that she is a wife and mother, she writes, “I feel a tenderness toward my younger self. My defensiveness and defiance are palpable to me now. What I wrote and preached then reflected what I believed at the time, but it missed a much more complicated picture. In many ways, I have been undeniably rewarded by capitalizing on my sexuality….But in other, less overt ways, I’ve felt objectified and limited by my position in the world as a so-called sex symbol.” This short book includes the juicy tidbits that avid celebrity-memoir readers seek, and the author shares how she really felt about the video shoot and how the aftermath affected her. Beyond that, the book is a reflective coming-of-age-in-the-industry tale, a story that is never maudlin but contains a few thick, murky sections. Ratajkowski attempts to break down the construction of her identity and sexuality in relation to the ever present male gaze as well as her relationships with the women in her life. The charm of this book lies in the author’s largely relatable writing, which shows the complex emotions and confusion of a young woman experiencing her sexual development and maturation into a capable adult. Admitting that the “purpose of the book is not to arrive at answers, but honestly to explore ideas I can’t help but return to,” Ratajkowski grapples directly with a host of thorny issues.

A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-81786-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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