A well-researched and thoroughly entertaining dual biography.



A filmmaker and screenwriter’s biographical account of two 19th-century theater divas and their fabled feud.

As Rader (Mike Wallace: A Life, 2012) notes, before the rise of French acting superstar Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) in the 1860s, popular theater was little more than a vaudevillian “social experience.” Actors earned neither money nor respect for their work. Bold and charismatic, Bernhardt took the “highly stylized” art of acting, which portrayed archetypes rather than real human beings, to a level never seen before. Her efforts and her eccentricities—e.g., traveling with a pet alligator and sleeping in a coffin—along with her scandalous affairs, earned the French actress wealth, fame, and legions of adoring fans all over the world. While the world reveled in the on- and offstage antics of “The Divine One,” Eleonora Duse (1858-1924), an actress 14 years Bernhardt’s junior, was gaining national attention in Italian newspapers. The flamboyant Bernhardt’s temperamental opposite, Duse gravitated toward naturalistic stage representations and portrayed her characters as “multidimensional, shaded, and complex” figures. Duse first saw Bernhardt appear in an 1882 production of her signature play, La Dame aux Camélias. Enchanted by the older actress’s talent and success, Duse made Bernhardt her role model. As critics across Europe began to take positive notice of Duse’s revolutionary acting methods, they also began to critique Bernhardt for her “dated style.” Soon the two divas began poaching plays, playwrights, and even lovers from each other. Before Bernhardt was able to perform playwright Giacomo Giacosa’s rendering of La Dame on Broadway in 1891, for example, Duse performed Giacosa’s translated version for Italian audiences first. Several years later, Bernhardt took poet and playwright Gabriele D’Annunzio—whom Duse adored like no other—as her lover. Delightfully readable and informative, Rader’s book examines a rivalry that defined modern theater while also exploring the origins of modern celebrity culture.

A well-researched and thoroughly entertaining dual biography.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3837-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

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


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

Did you like this book?