THE SEASON

INSIDE PALM BEACH AND AMERICA'S RICHEST SOCIETY

Money matters in this high-society resort, according to bestselling author Kessler; so do pedigree, the right wardrobe, the right restaurant—and bigotry and misogyny. Palm Beach is an island enclave off the east coast of Florida, first established as a playground for the rich in 1892 by Henry Flagler (Standard Oil, railroad money). Among the first winter residents were John D. Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan. Recent homeowners include billionaire entrepreneurs from television, cosmetics, real estate, and finance. Rich as they are, however, the newcomers can’t be admitted to Palm Beach’s inner circle without running the gauntlet of the Old Guard socialites and their leader, the wealthy widow Barton Gubelmann (there are a lot of wealthy widows and divorcÇes in this story). Gubelmann introduced Kessler (Inside the White House, 1995, etc.) to nuances of who was in and who was out. Out are Jews: Palm Beach’s two most illustrious private clubs permit no Jewish members and are touchy about Jewish guests. Other ethnic groups serve as maids, cooks, gardeners, and waiters, until recently legally required to be registered and fingerprinted (that local law was declared unconstitutional in 1985). Donald Trump comes off as a hero: His club, Mar-a-Lago, admits not only Jews but African-Americans. Shopping, plastic surgery, drugs, sex, and charity balls help Palm Beach regulars pass the time. Women are appreciated for their (cosmetically enhanced) bosoms, their wardrobes, and their ability to organize parties. The Jewish author donned a tuxedo to socialize and gather tales of both old and new money, yet he also established rapport with some of the lesser mortals on the island: a “walker,” a restaurant manager, and an eccentric blond real estate broker from London. None of his sources raise the level of discourse above a Monica Lewinsky—Linda Tripp chat. Although Kessler tries to be nonjudgmental, the weight of accumulated anecdote paints a picture of narcissism and decadence that is both pitiable and unsettling. (16 pages photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-019391-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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