An affecting narrative of two top-notch English actors, of interest to specialized American readers who find the milieu...

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THE TWO OF US

MY LIFE WITH JOHN THAW

Devoted personal remembrance of the author’s tumultuous 28-year marriage to the brilliant, troubled British actor who died, at age 60, in 2002.

A well-know actress in her own right, Hancock was born on the Isle of Wight in 1933, nine years before the man who would become her second husband in 1974. Thaw came from working-class Manchester and never quite recovered from the early desertion of his mother. He and Hancock both trained at the prestigious, competitive Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and enjoyed illustrious separate careers. Thaw kicked off with the Royal Shakespeare Company and understudied Lawrence Olivier in 1962; he was best known in England as star of the long-running TV series Inspector Morse. The statuesque Hancock, who describes her career as “a fearful hotch-potch of the serious and trivial,” gained her best part as Madame Ranevskaya in the National Theatre production of The Cherry Orchard and was the RSC’s first female artistic director. Her memoir offers a lively testament to the changing times, from the swinging ’60s (when she wore a full-length red-fox coat and popped uppers and downers), through the violent ’70s (she grew politically active and befriended Germaine Greer), to the grim Thatcher years (obsessed with “ratings and budgets”). She first met Thaw in the mid-’60s, when he played opposite her in So What About Love? He was a hard drinker and a workaholic, often dogged by depression; Hancock frankly acknowledges that she thrived on the volatility of being with a drinker. Separated at one point, the two happily reconciled, until cancer weakened and destroyed him. The narrative is peppered with entries from Hancock’s diary of Thaw’s last days, and a concluding chapter recounts her attempt to find his lost mother. Though it vividly depicts numerous famous friends, such as Peter O’Toole, the essence is its loving, sentimental portrait of a close marital bond.

An affecting narrative of two top-notch English actors, of interest to specialized American readers who find the milieu compelling.

Pub Date: March 2, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-417-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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