An entertaining yet predictable portrait of a flamboyantly iconic family.




A colorful history of the glamorous pop-culture icons of the previous century.

In this latest biography of the Gabors, film historian Staggs (Inventing Elsa Maxwell, 2012, etc.) attempts to “set the record straight” in portraying their larger-than-life history and the numerous legends, rumors, and scandals connected to each family member: sisters Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva, and mother, Jolie. As the title indicates, Zsa Zsa takes center stage throughout the narrative. “Clichés about this legendary family seem indestructible,” writes the author in the preface. “I hope, however, to have punctured two of the silliest. The first is that they were famous for being famous….The other outlandish notion is that they somehow foreshadowed the Kardashians and others of that ilk. This one is nourished by those who know nothing of the Gabors and too much about the Ks, not one of whom has the sophistication…of an Eva or a Zsa Zsa.” The Gabors indeed live jet-setting, productive lives and individually achieved a vast array of accomplishments in the entertainment and fashion industries. Yet perhaps their biggest achievement was one of self-invention. As refugees from Hungary landing in the United States, they carefully cultivated their mystique of glittering fabulousness and spent their lives preserving that image. Though certainly more cosmopolitan than the likes of the Kardashians, they frankly did foreshadow the glamorous lifestyles of current celebrity sensations. Ultimately, the book is an old-fashioned Hollywood biography, however respectfully eschewing the malicious Kitty Kelly style of dishing. Staggs diligently references sources and allows their personalities and escapades to come vividly to life, including their numerous love affairs and marriages (more than 20 among the three sisters) and their many career milestones. Beneath all the glitz, these were business-savvy women, and the author misses the opportunity to claim their relevance for contemporary readers, leaving them enmeshed within their long-reigning “camp” status. Theirs is an interesting, occasionally wayward American success story begging for a revisionist approach to the telling.

An entertaining yet predictable portrait of a flamboyantly iconic family.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4967-1959-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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