An authoritative and sympathetic collective biography.



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 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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An overdue upending of art historical discourse.


An indispensable primer on the history of art, with an exclusive focus on women.

Prominent 19th-century art critic John Ruskin once proclaimed, “the woman’s intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision,” and traces of this misguided and malignant sentiment can still be found over a century later in art institutions around the world. A 2019 study found that “in the collections of eighteen major US art museums, 87 percent of artworks were by men, and 85 percent by white artists.” There’s a lot to be mad about, but London-based art historian Hessel nimbly pivots that energy into a constructive, revelatory project. This book is not a mere rebuttal to the aforementioned discrimination; deftly researched, the text reveals an alternate history of centuries of artistic movements. With palpable excitement, the author shifts the focus from widely known male participants to the unsung female players of the time. Art aficionados will delight in Hessel’s sleight of hand and marvel at her wide, inclusive reach. Spanning from Baroque art to the present day, she effortlessly removes “the clamour of men” and, in a series of short biographical profiles, shapes a historical arc that still feels grounded even without a familiar male presence. Art history must “reset,” Hessel writes, and she positions her book as an important first step in that reconfiguration. While the author progresses mostly movement by movement, her broader tangents are particularly profound. One of many highlights is a generous overview of queer artists of the Weimar era. Hessel is occasionally uneven with how much content she allots each artist, and some perfunctory profiles feel like the result of trying to highlight as many names as possible. Nonetheless, even the shortest gloss provides enough intrigue to be a successful introduction to an artist who might otherwise be forgotten.

An overdue upending of art historical discourse.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780393881868

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.


That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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