Preserves like a frozen capsule the British grin-and-bear-it spirit and vocabulary of the WWII years.

MURDER ON THE HOME FRONT

A TRUE STORY OF MORGUES, MURDERERS, AND MYSTERIES DURING THE LONDON BLITZ

A secretary to a formidable London pathologist during World War II reissues her wry, grisly account of murder and corpses, first published in 1955.

Lefebure was a junior reporter at a London suburban weekly when Dr. Keith Simpson, the Home Office pathologist at Guy’s Hospital, tapped her as having the right stuff to be his forensics secretary. An intrepid workaholic who was hardly bashful or squeamish, and thoroughly capable, Lefebure—whose name her colleagues could not pronounce, so she was known as Miss L—was highly intrigued by the forensics work of her swift-moving boss. The work took her across bomb-scarred London to a dozen post-mortems per day, as well as to the various courts and Scotland Yard. The author’s job was to type up the reports as the pathologist dictated while laboring over his cadaver, no matter the time or place—e.g., during the bombings by the Germans. She coolly collected specimens of hair or teeth in little bags and labeled them so that the team could figure out the cause of death later in the lab. Her chapters break down in chronological order some of the notable or simply memorable cases she encountered from the spring of 1941, when she visited her first mortuary, where she was impressed by the cleanliness of the operation though put off by “the sound of a saw raspingly opening a skull,” to the late autumn of 1945, after the war had wound down, when she was planning on marrying and needed to find her successor—job qualifications: “Typing. Good verbatim shorthand. Tact. Interested in crime. No objection to mortuaries and corpses. Reasonably fast runner.” Despite the many ghastly descriptions of ruined cadavers, Lefebure’s youthful bravery shines through, while the grim conditions showcase her terrific wit.

Preserves like a frozen capsule the British grin-and-bear-it spirit and vocabulary of the WWII years.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7606-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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