If DeWees’ goal is to encourage “a bookshelf full of new titles,” she succeeds in planting the seed that there are many...



Debut author DeWees brings back to life seven Victorian women writers with the hope of proving them worthy of shelf space alongside Austen and the Brontës.

The British women of this book lived from the mid-1700s to the late 1800s, a time when society expected them to find husbands and not do much else. But these were no ordinary women; all had "broad disregard for convention…an unabashed sense of self-worth.” Some wrote because their situations forced them to, after bad marriages left them unsupported (Charlotte Turner Smith). Others did it because they were compelled by their beliefs, whether political or personal, in protest against the negative connotations of "spinsterhood.” Mary Elizabeth Braddon wrote in search of a successful career and, despite the rage of critics, made a fortune. Catherine Crowe penned one of the first detective novels complete with a “resourceful, industrious, lionhearted” female lead. Sara Coleridge wrote Phantasmion, considered by some as the first fairy-tale novel in English. What DeWees does best is reveal the interesting lives and strong characters of these oft-forgotten writers, proving to readers that there were many more successful Victorian women writers than the handful that populate syllabi. The most memorable chapters belong to Mary Robinson, who left a loveless marriage to become a commanding actress and mistress to the Prince of Wales, using her fame to become a definitive cultural voice of her time, and to Coleridge, whose gripping story reveals a constant struggle against the binding duties of motherhood and marriage. Virginia Woolf summed up Coleridge’s tragedy well: “She meant to write her life. But she was interrupted.” While some chapters blend together and the accomplishments become indistinguishable, this book succeeds at making readers aware of the gaps in our knowledge of British literature. Read this not as serious literary criticism but as an appreciation of writers who deserve to be remembered.

If DeWees’ goal is to encourage “a bookshelf full of new titles,” she succeeds in planting the seed that there are many treasures out there waiting for a second chance.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-239462-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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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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