No hagiographer, Short delivers a clear, useful picture of his subject and his country.




An accessible biography of François Mitterrand (1916–1996), the first popularly elected socialist president, whose life “mirrored the contradictions and compromises of the times in which he lived.”

In simple terms, foreign correspondent Short (Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare, 2005, etc.) explains the workings of French politics from the World War II Vichy government through the highly productive years of Mitterrand’s government, sparing readers much of the alphabet soup of France’s parties. In true French fashion, the author downplays the leader’s personal life and his “two families.” After escaping from a German prison camp, Mitterrand searched for the best method to rid France of its occupiers. The Vichy government of “free France” suffered accusations of collaboration and obvious cooperation in the roundup of Jews, which tainted all who worked with its leader, Philippe Pétain. Despite his resistance activities, Mitterrand would face similar accusations for the rest of his life. The Fifth Republic, under Charles de Gaulle, put near-monarchical power into the leader’s hands. Mitterrand’s efforts at colonial reform, the Algerian War and his refusal to vote for de Gaulle led to his wilderness years and pushed him firmly into the Socialist Party. Even so, he was mocked since, according to his contemporary Guy Mollet, “he did not become socialist…he learnt to speak socialist.” The author describes Mitterrand as an ambiguous, haughty, inaccessible procrastinator who was invariably late. When he finally successfully became president of France, it was during the highly charged years of the 1980s. Working with West Germany’s Helmut Kohl and working around Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, he fought to establish the European Union and the euro as its currency. He battled against Israeli intransigence regarding the Palestinians, Reagan’s “Star Wars,” and the influences of Iran and Syria in the Middle East.

No hagiographer, Short delivers a clear, useful picture of his subject and his country.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8853-3

Page Count: 640

Publisher: John Macrae/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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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.


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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