An authoritative and sympathetic collective biography.

WHEN WOMEN RULED THE WORLD

MAKING THE RENAISSANCE IN EUROPE

A revisionist history posits warm ties among powerful queens.

Renaissance scholar Quilligan closely examines the relationships among four 16th-century rulers—Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, and Catherine de’ Medici—seeking to revise the “misogynist narrative” that placed them in “jealous and warlike opposition” to one another. With meticulous attention to the letters and gifts they exchanged, Quilligan argues that the women nurtured a culture of mutual respect based on their family ties and sense of their “shared nature of power.” Their lives were inextricably intertwined: Mary Tudor and Elizabeth were half sisters and religious antagonists; Mary Stuart was their cousin once removed; Catherine, though not a queen, was Mary Stuart’s mother-in-law and “ruled as mother of three different kings.” Considering Elizabeth’s relationship with Mary Stuart, Quilligan asserts that the Protestant and Catholic queens evinced “an essentially similar, tolerant Christianity”—unlike Catholic Mary Tudor, who, during the first three years of her reign, “burned heretics alive, many of them common people but some of them Anglican bishops and archbishops.” Elizabeth accepted Mary Stuart’s request to be godmother to her son James and sent a solid gold baptismal font upon the boy’s birth, symbolizing the queens’ mutual desire for “unity and toleration.” Still, Mary soon melted it down to fund her troops. Other gifts among the women included gems, silver, fine embroidery, books, and tapestries; as Quilligan notes, many of Elizabeth’s 800 pieces of jewelry were gifts from women, not necessarily family. Elizabeth and her cousin never met, even when Mary Stuart, perceived by Elizabeth’s courtiers as a threat, lived for more than 18 years under house arrest in England. When Mary Stuart was beheaded in 1587, Elizabeth, furious, claimed the execution was a “miserable accident” about which she had known nothing. At times, it is difficult to separate the rulers’ political exigency from their familial loyalty, but the book is a useful addition to the literature on European royalty.

An authoritative and sympathetic collective biography.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-796-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

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ELEANOR

A LIFE

A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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