A solid if sometimes plodding account, of much interest to students of espionage and counterintelligence.

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A SPY NAMED ORPHAN

THE ENIGMA OF DONALD MACLEAN

A tale of the tangled web spun by a Briton who spied for the Soviet Union and ended his days in Moscow exile.

Less cynical, and perhaps less effective, than his contemporaries Kim Philby and Guy Burgess, fellow members of the spy ring that came to be called the Cambridge Five, Donald Maclean (1913-1983) was a true believer in the communist cause. After defecting to the Soviet Union, he wrote to his mother that he had “done nothing of which I am ashamed and of which you need be ashamed for me.” The British government felt differently, of course. Philipps, whose grandfather worked alongside Maclean in the Foreign Office, turns in a careful though fairly bland study of Maclean and his motivations, which, though apparently pure, were given a desperate edge by a long dependence on alcohol. As the author writes, if the Cambridge University of the 1920s was a broadly conservative place, by the 1930s, in the words of the poet Julian Bell, “a very large majority of the more intelligent undergraduates are Communists, or almost Communists.” That was certainly true of Maclean, who otherwise had few of the psychological markers that Soviet spy recruiters sought—e.g., low self-esteem and distance among family members. Maclean was a solid performer as a spy, heeding instructions not to socialize with his fellow spooks inasmuch as it was “against Soviet tradecraft to allow social contacts between agents,” even as Philby and Burgess broke that rule by living together. Maclean performed his government job well, too, leading to a posting in Washington, D.C., where he enjoyed “unparalleled access…[in] the hub of the Western allies in the rapidly burgeoning Cold War.” Even so, writes Philipps, the Soviets were careful to shield him from the likes of Alger Hiss, the Venona project, and other spy operations.

A solid if sometimes plodding account, of much interest to students of espionage and counterintelligence.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-60857-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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 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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