A worthy biography that doesn’t approach the greatness of its subject.

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PAUL MCCARTNEY

THE LIFE

A biography of the multitalented musician, written with his “tacit approval.”

Unless you know nothing about Paul McCartney or think the Beatles were merely his first backup band before Wings, not much in this account from Norman (Mick Jagger, 2012, etc.)—who has authored biographies of John Lennon, Buddy Holly, and Elton John, among others—will come as news. However, though late to the party, Norman has a couple of things going for him. One is the subject’s tacit approval, useful considering that McCartney has “constructed ramparts of privacy rivaled only by Bob Dylan.” Another is the author’s comprehensive grasp of the existing literature and his sense of what makes a good story. This book is full of good stories, few reflecting poorly on McCartney though sometimes calling his impulses into question, notably with respect to his latter-day marriage to Heather Mills and the mayhem it caused. Mills emerges as the villain of that particular piece, but not without careful evidence and dissection. Elsewhere, Norman repeats well-worn yarns, though sometimes in curious ways. His account of how an apparently throwaway line became the centerpiece of McCartney’s song “Hey Jude” is flat, and his retelling of his subject’s helpful hints on the financial benefits of music publishing lacks the sense of tragic inevitability that we all know lurks nearby. However, Norman has considerable strengths. He understands how complicated the business dealings underlying the Beatles’ Apple Corps were and just how right McCartney was to sue to dissolve that partnership. He also reveals a few little-known facets of Sir Paul’s daily life and interests, including archival talents that would rival any librarian’s, as when Norman takes us to the scene of a “secret underfloor compartment” containing the Hofner bass Paul played at the Beatles’ last performance. There’s plenty on McCartney’s post-Beatles career, of course, but the foursome remains the heart of interest, especially the long rivalry with Lennon.

A worthy biography that doesn’t approach the greatness of its subject.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-32796-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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