THE LETTERS OF NANCY MITFORD AND EVELYN WAUGH

Twenty years (1946-66) of reciprocal, unconditional support between the twin sensibilities and manifestly unlike personalities of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, expressed in a private shorthand of shared history and coined language. Mitford, refreshingly, "can never take [her]self seriously as a femme de lettres" or anything else; Waugh, depressive and dyspeptic, finds her characterological happiness "entirely indecent," and her punctuation "pitiable," but convention is hardly her strong suit. Or his. They write about writing (especially their own) and about politics and economics and money—Waugh unbendingly conservative, Mitford flexibly socialist ("All the poor people in the world & so on. It's terrible to love clothes as much as I do"). But chiefly they write about Society, exchanging news of scandals and slights in their overlapping circles, peevishly keeping tabs on their pets: Cyril Connolly, a.k.a. Smartyboots or just S. Boots; Diana "Honks" Mitford Mosley, the fascist sister; Lady Diana "Honks" (also) Cooper and husband, Duff; Jessica "Dekka" Mitford, the communist sister; cousin Randolph Churchill, not always "on speakers" with Nancy; "Prod," her mostly absentee husband, Peter Rodd; the "Colonel," her mostly absentee lover, Gaston Palewski. Their common references can be suffocatingly precious or jarring—they consistently consider Jews a breed apart. Their contrariness bonds them at least as much and makes for better material: Mitford is a passionate expatriate who settles in France after the war and sprinkles her letters with idiomatic French; Waugh is a resolute Francophobe who tolerates America (which she abhors); he's a father, she's childless. Withal, they seek each other's counsel and salve each other's loneliness irreplaceably. Editor Mosley (wife of Mitford's nephew and editor of Love from Nancy, 1993) orders their high gossip appreciatively and authoritatively, contributing conscientious footnotes, welcome biographical apparatus, and the admonition that the whole correspondence is "to be read as entertainment, not as the unvarnished truth." Best in controlled doses. Quite the battle of wits.

Pub Date: March 26, 1997

ISBN: 0-395-74015-0

Page Count: 531

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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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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