Evans clearly admires his subject but does not hesitate to consider the rougher edges—a book that will rightly bring new...

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ERIC HOBSBAWM

A LIFE IN HISTORY

A well-considered life of the influential British historian, written by a Cambridge University historian who himself is well-known for many important works.

With an unusual name that came as a result of an immigration official’s misrendering of the original Obstbaum, Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) was unusually erudite at a very early age, well-traveled, and endlessly curious about the ways of the world. He took his birth in the year of the Russian Revolution as something of a talisman, and though Evans (The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914, 2015, etc.) deems it a coincidence, it was “one that somehow stood as a symbol for the political commitment he was to gain later on.” Already a Marxist as a teen, though one, fellow travelers complained, more given to debate than activism, Hobsbawm was a lifelong polymath who was equally at home in the literature stacks and the historical annals. As Evans enumerates, he devoured detective novels along with the Greek tragedies and works by authors in numerous languages, from Marlowe to Chekhov and beyond. Though a professional chronicler of the past—even the FBI, of which he would run afoul, called him “a noted historian”—Hobsbawm considered himself foremost a writer. His works, such as The Age of Capital (1975), remain widely read today, marked by what Evans justly praises as “readability, analytical penetration and vivid detail." During his long life, Hobsbawm was also a Marxist critic of capitalism, if one who also resisted Stalinism and a fixed party ideology; his opposition to the Vietnam War, for instance, was fierce but nuanced. For all that, as Evans writes with some circumspection, Hobsbawm also enjoyed an active extracurricular life that included a ménage a trois as intellectual as it was physical, a surprise in a book full of them.

Evans clearly admires his subject but does not hesitate to consider the rougher edges—a book that will rightly bring new attention to both writers.

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-19-045964-2

Page Count: 756

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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