The intimacy established in Indira’s early years is washed away by snippets of journalism toward the end, leaving this...

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INDIRA

THE LIFE OF INDIRA NEHRU GANDHI

The tale of modern India’s mightiest matriarch and most controversial Prime Minister.

As Frank (A Passage to Egypt, 1994) notes, Indira Nehru Gandhi, daughter of independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was strongly influenced by family friend Mahatma Gandhi (no relation). Drawing on a variety of sources—including Jawaharlal’s memoirs and interviews with those who knew Indira—the author reveals how Indira’s professional and emotional relationships often intertwined, especially in regard to the men in her life: her influential father, her quarrelsome husband, and her two sons—Rajiv and hot-blooded Sanjay. The first half of the narrative provides some intimate details of Indira’s unconventional childhood in her paternal grandfather’s Westernized home: The only child of Kamala and Jawaharlal, Indira was nicknamed “Indu-boy” and (like her patrician father) educated abroad. Despite her privileged upbringing, Indira’s early life was far from happy. She anguished over Kamala’s chronic maladies and endured long separations from Jawaharlal, who was imprisoned several times for his participation in Gandhi’s civil-disobedience movement. After Kamala died, Indira defied her family by marrying Feroze Ghandhi (unrelated to Mahatma Ghandhi), who later humiliated her with his clashing politics and infidelities, until he died unexpectedly at the age of 48. Frank chronicles the triumphs and blunders of Indira’s career in a detached voice, but the scandals of her administration—including her Declaration of Emergency, in which she avoided resignation by censuring the media—provide a vivid portrait of the turbulence of Indian politics. The author also suggests that, at certain times during Indira’s leadership, the unscrupulous Sanjay was calling the shots. Although both sons blamed the strains of politics for their father’s death, Rajiv eventually followed in her footsteps, succeeding her after her assassination in 1984.

The intimacy established in Indira’s early years is washed away by snippets of journalism toward the end, leaving this account somewhat unbalanced. Still, this is a rewarding study for Westerners curious about the Nehru dynasty and independent India’s tumultuous political history.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-395-73097-X

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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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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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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