A rich portrait of Beeton’s home life and the world of publishing in Victorian England.

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THE SHORT LIFE AND LONG TIMES OF MRS. BEETON

Thoroughly researched, sympathetic and highly readable biography of the Victorian housewife who wrote the iconic Book of Household Management.

Hughes (George Eliot, 1999, etc.) delves into the lives of two generations of Isabella Mayson Beeton’s ancestors to reconstruct the world into which she was born. She shows us Isabella as a child making herself useful in a household containing a multitude of children; as a bride-to-be preparing to set up housekeeping; and as the young wife of a struggling book and magazine publisher. Sam Beeton launched The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine in 1852, four years before their marriage, and by 1857, Isabella was writing for it. The Book of Household Management soon followed, appearing in 48-page installments beginning in 1859, with Isabella serving as compiler and editor. She may not have originated the recipes in it, but she excelled as a journalist and organizer. Under her direction, it came to be the source on which middle-class Victorians relied for guidance in all matters domestic: not just the preparation and presentation of food, but coping with servants, managing money, cleaning, stocking a pantry, entertaining, raising healthy children. To capture its flavor, Hughes inserts between the chapters on Isabella’s life brief sections she calls Interludes, which consider the Book of Household Management’s various aspects: its moral tone, its assumption that readers aspired to a higher style of living, prejudices against the servant class, an obsession with the purity of food and a nostalgia for a vanishing agrarian world. Acolytes assumed that the advice was coming from an experienced matron, but Isabella never even achieved middle age. After her death at 29, apparently of syphilis contracted from Sam on their honeymoon, her husband’s firm foundered. The book was acquired by another publisher, but the Beeton name remained firmly attached to it. Hughes follows the reception of its various incarnations through the centennial edition of 1960.

A rich portrait of Beeton’s home life and the world of publishing in Victorian England.

Pub Date: May 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-307-26373-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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