Readers don’t have to buy the shaky premise to enjoy this knowledgeable and accessible account of a turning point in French...

THE MAID AND THE QUEEN

THE SECRET HISTORY OF JOAN OF ARC

A French noblewoman arranged Joan of Arc’s miraculous career.

So argues popular historian Goldstone (The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily, 2009, etc.), who contends that Yolande of Aragon was deeply influenced by The Romance of Melusine, the story of a fairy aiding a young nobleman that she took as a blueprint for what needed to be done to goad France’s indecisive Charles VII into battle against English invaders. The author presents no hard evidence that Yolande even read the book, but Joan of Arc’s short life is nicely contextualized within the story of Yolande’s astute maneuvers among the shifting political currents of the Hundred Years War. It’s particularly valuable since there is no biography in English of this remarkable woman, thrown into the thick of European politics by her marriage to Louis II, a member of the French royal family who was also King of Sicily. Yolande administered her husband’s French possessions while he was consolidating his claim to Sicily, and she saw that her family’s security and prosperity depended on bolstering the resolve of Charles VII. Goldstone strongly suggests that Yolande was responsible for the prophecy that began to circulate around this time—“France, ruined by a woman, would be restored by a virgin from the marches of Lorraine”—though she’s too conscientious a historian to state outright that the prophecy prompted Joan’s hearing divine voices. It’s possible that Yolande smoothed Joan’s path to Charles and encouraged his acceptance of her as literally heaven-sent, though again there’s no hard proof. Nonetheless, Goldstone’s vivid retelling of Joan’s astounding victories and her capture and martyrdom by the English is as gripping as ever, and she brings Yolande back into the narrative following Joan’s death in 1431 to spur Charles to a truce with the powerful duke of Burgundy, which ultimately led to the French victory.

Readers don’t have to buy the shaky premise to enjoy this knowledgeable and accessible account of a turning point in French history.

Pub Date: April 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02333-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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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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