An authoritative and perceptive portrait.

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MAGGIE SMITH

A BIOGRAPHY

The illustrious career of “a great stage actress in both comedy and tragedy, and an international film star.”

Winner of two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, and several Emmys, the internationally acclaimed Maggie Smith (b. 1934) is currently best known as Lady Violet on Downton Abbey. As British theater critic and biographer Coveney (Ken Campbell: The Great Caper, 2012, etc.) portrays her in this informative, well-crafted biography, Smith brings to her role as Dowager Countess the acerbic wit, sly irreverence, and masterly technique that have served her throughout her long career. Steeped in theater history, and with full cooperation from Smith; her husband, actor Beverley Cross; family and colleagues, including her close friend Judi Dench, Coveney seamlessly melds Smith’s personal and professional lives into an engrossing narrative. Smith’s stardom was ensured, the author believes, in 1960, when she received 12 curtain calls for her performance in J.M. Barrie’s What Every Woman Knows. In 1969, her role in The Prime of Miss Brodie earned her an Oscar. Besides “her incurably obsessive drive to be working,” Coveney writes, “she had a sure instinct about which work to do.” That work took her to the Stratford Festival in Ontario, London’s West End, Broadway, and Hollywood; from the start, she proved herself an astonishing comedienne. As Michael Caine, her co-star in Neil Simon’s California Suite, remarked, acting with Smith “was like attending a one-woman masterclass on comic technique.” On stage and screen, director Peter Wood said, Smith had a “telepathic ray” that connected with her audience. To co-stars, though, she could seem formidable: Michael Palin commented on “an intensity of animosity sometimes, which comes out in her acting and can be quite chilling.” Journalist Bernard Levin thought she constructed a “brittle facade” to hide her vulnerability. “I’m never shy on the stage,” she said. “Always shy off it.” “I don’t like myself very much,” she once admitted. “I’d much rather be someone else.”

An authoritative and perceptive portrait.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-08148-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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