REFLECTED GLORY

THE LIFE OF PAMELA CHURCHILL HARRIMAN

The riveting adventure of a red-haired country girl who became, in Smith's characterization, the last of the great courtesans and an internationally recognized diplomat. Pamela Harriman's life is the stuff of romance novels. The seductive heroine dallies with a series of rich and well-born lovers, including not only first husband Randolph Churchill, but American diplomat Averell Harriman, broadcasting legend Edward R. Murrow, millionaires Jock Whitney, Aly Khan, Gianni Agnelli, and Elie de Rothschild. Not the least of her admirers (but not her lover) was Winston Churchill, who was genuinely fond of his daughter-in-law. She in turn played on the Churchill name to bolster a brilliant career on the international social circuit, further enhanced by her marriage to American theatrical producer Leland Hayward. Widowed by Hayward, she married former lover Averell Harriman. After Harriman's death and with his legacy, she used her charm and social skills to become the ``den mother'' of the Democratic Party, earning an appointment as ambassador to France. Relying on many of the same sources but without the sour bite of Christopher Ogden's 1994 Harriman biography, Smith (In All His Glory: William S. Paley, 1990) gives us a portrait of a woman who has left many wounded in her wake (including her neglected son), but who has spent her life, as she wanted to, at the center of power and wealth. She brings Harriman's story up to the present, with a detailed portrait of her acrimonious feud with the other Harriman heirs. Attractive but not beautiful, charming but not witty or well educated, how did Pam do it? As many of her famous predecessors, like Pompadour and de Maintenon, did: With extraordinary determination and by catering to her man. Sure to ruffle the feathers of feminists, but a convincing depiction of an era not very long ago when the only route to the top for a woman of average ability and above-average ambition was in the wake of a man. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen). (First serial to Vanity Fair)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80950-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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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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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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