Deft and probing, with stunningly close-up glimpses of a maniac’s ascendancy.

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HITLER’S PIANO PLAYER

THE RISE AND FALL OF ERNST HANFSTAENGL, CONFIDANT OF HITLER, ALLY OF FDR

Penetrating biography of a man once on such intimate terms with Hitler that his son would know the Holocaust’s progenitor as “Uncle Dolph.”

Dubbed “Putzi,” an affectionate nickname from his American mother that haunted his entire adult life, Ernst Hanfstaengl was born in 1887 to a prominent Bavarian family engaged in publishing reproductions of fine art. He struggled academically at Harvard, though he was well liked as a bon vivant and party pianist, but managed to graduate in 1909. Running the family’s New York gallery, he became an acquaintance of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s through the Harvard Club. The stage was thus set for a fascinating double life, notes Conradi, deputy foreign editor of the London Times. By 1921, Putzi had married Helene Neimeyer, daughter of German immigrants, and they had a son, Egon, but he was at odds with an older brother and decided to return home. Urged by a friend to hear Hitler speak, Hanfstaengl sensed that a country in turmoil was prone to Nazism’s lures. He joined Hitler’s entourage as a “civilizing” tutor, piano-therapist (playing Hitler’s favorite Wagnerian themes), and sometime pimp (he often worried about the leader’s lack of a sex life); later he became the party’s foreign press liaison. Fleeing the failed 1923 Munich Beer Hall putsch, Hanfstaengl made for Austria while Hitler went to Putzi’s country house, where Helene and Egon were waiting. The police followed, and Hitler attempted suicide, but Helene, upon whom the Fuehrer had an obsessive, lap-dog crush, literally knocked the pistol out of his mouth, thus securing his place in history. Finally repelled by Hitler’s extremism, Putzi (divorced by his wife in 1936) narrowly escaped the Reich in 1937, ultimately becoming a key figure in FDR’s psy-war Project S.

Deft and probing, with stunningly close-up glimpses of a maniac’s ascendancy.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1283-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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