ORWELL

A BIOGRAPHY

Believing that Bernard Crick's authorized biography, George Orwell (1981), neglected the writer's inner life, Shelden (Friends of Promise, 1989) set out to discover the secret life that would help to elucidate Animal Farm and 1984. What he offers here is a biography of an eccentric, decent, sickly man, intensely private and self-deprecating, who believed that his life had nothing to do with his writing or that his life was his writing. Orwell (1903-50), born Eric Blair, educated at Eton, spent five years in Burma before becoming a ``tramp,'' an experience he described in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). He worked as a tutor, a bookshop clerk, a grocer, a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, and a BBC commentator and journalist, but mostly as a writer who turned out reams of personal and literary essays and, to avoid libel, disguised his political commentary in fiction such as Animal Farm. Prematurely aged from the London Blitz, repeated bouts with TB, and the loss of his wife, he moved to the isolated Scottish island of Jura with his sister and his adopted infant son; there, he completed 1984. Orwell died in a London hospital three months after a bedside marriage to his second wife, ending a life spent mostly away from the high-living, hard-drinking writers of his generation: ``I cannot honestly say that I have done anything except write books and raise hens and vegetables,'' he wrote, taking ``pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.'' Despite his aim, then, Shelden may have proved that Orwell had no secret life, that the only pitiful thing about him was his failure to inspire love in women, that the only scandalous one was his collection of crudely captioned seaside postcards depicting voluptuous women—an expression of what Orwell called the ``unofficial self'' everyone has. Occasional glimpses of that unofficial self are, disappointingly, all that Shelden offers. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-016709-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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