SARAH ORNE JEWETT

HER WORLD AND HER WORK

A laudable, if cautious, attempt to reclaim the literary status of an important American author from successive waves of neglect and politically charged reinterpretation. Placing Jewett firmly within the pantheon of late 19th century intellectual society, Blanchard (Margaret Fuller, 1978) blends biography and textual analysis to reveal a life of apparently astonishing balance. Born in 1849 in the comfortable and bucolic town of South Berwick, Maine, the daughter of a broad-minded physician, Jewett managed the difficult feat, notes Blanchard, of gaining fame and fortune ``simply by going her own way and doing what she liked to do.'' Although she was past 40 when her most enduring work, The Country of the Pointed Firs, appeared, Jewett, despite crippling bouts of rheumatoid arthritis, began publishing in her teens. At 32 she established her extraordinarily successful liaison with Annie Fields, widow of publisher and Atlantic Monthly founder James T. Fields, and thereafter shuttled happily between her beloved Maine and the highbrow salons of Boston. While giving ample play to Jewett's singular achievement of creating a life and art that constantly sustained and reflected her intellectual and spiritual interests, Blanchard, in her meticulous portrayal of the world of educated 19th-century women, skillfully demonstrates how unexceptional her subject's life appeared within its heady environs. Similarly, her probably asexual relationship with Fields, seen by many as ``perhaps the classic `Boston marriage,' '' was unremarkable in an era of flowery ``romantic friendships'' between accomplished, independent women who rarely had the option of combining work and family. By the same token, Jewett's literary themes—notably the importance of community, a Transcendentalist reverence for nature, and a realism leavened by optimism—were addressed to and embraced by readers of both sexes. Persuasively argued, this spirited work falters only in its failure to measure Jewett's achievements against the best, rather than the whole, literature of her time.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-201-51810-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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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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