Casts new and unexpectedly sympathetic light on arguably the dominant figure in the early-20th-century art world. (86 photos...

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DUVEEN

A LIFE IN ART

After a decade-long sojourn among musicians (Stephen Sondheim, 1998, etc.), Secrest returns to her previous specialty (Being Bernard Berenson, 1979, etc.) with a portrait of the world’s greatest art dealer.

The flamboyant Lord Duveen (1869–1939) is still notorious in Britain for persuading aristocrats to sell him such items of their country’s cultural patrimony as Gainsborough’s Blue Boy. He invariably sold this plunder to American “squillionaires” as he called them, in time becoming a squillionaire himself. Making use of the newly unsealed Duveen Archive, Secrest documents the family’s origins and the complicated history of the Duveen firm with all its internecine quarrels. Specifically, the author clarifies the term “Duveen,” which today is tossed about as if it all referred to Joe (as he was informally known). In fact, there was first his father’s antiques shop, which Joe took over, but also several competing firms set up by brothers and cousins, all of whom Joe scared off, bought off, absorbed, or sued. Due to such business maneuvers and his long association with art historian Berenson, who authenticated Italian masters for him and sometimes made convenient changes of attribution, Duveen has always been considered a slippery character, and his biographer’s tone is breezy and superior, bordering on condescending. (She also occasionally gets in over her head with art history.) Duveen’s considerable charm, however, survives the treatment he receives from Secrest, who acknowledges his acts of philanthropy to British museums and the manipulation of his stable of American clients to establish great public collections, improve private collections, or donate to already established institutions. The author struggles to keep Duveen in the context of his own age, but frequently judges him based on contemporary standards of conservation and ethics. She does make it clear that museums in Britain and the US would be far worse off without the great Duveen, warts and all.

Casts new and unexpectedly sympathetic light on arguably the dominant figure in the early-20th-century art world. (86 photos and illustrations)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-375-41042-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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