A top-notch biography.

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IN BYRON'S WAKE

THE TURBULENT LIVES OF LORD BYRON'S WIFE AND DAUGHTER: ANNABELLA MILBANKE AND ADA LOVELACE

The tale of one of the most disastrous marriages in English literary history—and how it reverberated through generations to come.

Prolific novelist and literary biographer Seymour (The Pity of War: England and Germany, Bitter Friends, Beloved Foes, 2014, etc.) returns to the familiar Romantic era ground she covered in her 2001 biography, Mary Shelley, with this wide-ranging dysfunctional family portrait. Raised as a beautiful, pampered, privileged social princess, Annabella Milbanke married the great poet Lord Byron with the most delusional of intentions: She would reform the rake who famously seduced anyone who didn’t seduce him first. However, no sooner were they on their honeymoon than Byron brought his half sister, Augusta Leigh, into the game and all but made love to her under the nose of his naïve and oblivious bride. Annabella, who only dealt with the unthinkable when it became the unavoidable, fled within a year, taking along Ada, her newborn daughter by Byron. Her marriage made her vindictive and cruel; she could wield the unpleasant and unlawful facts as a cudgel against Byron and Augusta as well as their unfortunate daughter Elizabeth Medora. More than that, she raised and molded Ada by herself, with results that went well beyond her control. While she nurtured Ada’s genius—she was the mathematical prodigy who became the explicator and promoter of Charles Babbage’s groundbreaking Analytical Machine, the forerunner of the computer—Ada was every bit her father’s daughter. The self-proclaimed “bride of science,” she supplemented her marriage with affairs and a disastrous interest in racehorse gambling; she also bristled under the restraints of her tightfisted and domineering mother. Seymour’s great achievement is the resourcefulness and diligence she brings to both Annabella and Ada, complex figures who alternately invite and test readers’ sympathies. Their inner and outer lives—along with those of dozens of others who populate this tragic farce—are told with singular narrative skill.

A top-notch biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-872-3

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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