The First Father waves from his high horse with this felicitous new assessment of his derring-do.

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GEORGE WASHINGTON

GENTLEMAN WARRIOR

America’s “pugnacious fighting man,” as dashingly portrayed by English historian Brumwell (Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe, 2008, etc.).

The author concentrates on Washington’s martial experience during the 1750s alongside Gen. Edward Braddock and other British fighting the French. During this time, he honed his noble reputation as a patriot leader. Denied a gentleman’s education by the untimely death of his Virginia planter father in 1743, young George applied his mathematical talents to learning the trade of land surveying for a lucrative career, as well as a chance to apply his fascination with the wilds of the North American interior. With the French encroaching into Virginia territory in the 1750s, Washington volunteered his services as emissary in the “escalating imperial rivalry,” publishing a journal of his arduous journey into Ohio Country in 1754, bringing him fame at age 22. From colonel of the Virginia Regiment to aide-de-camp for Braddock, Washington cut his military teeth on the British military hierarchy, adopting an exemplary code of order and discipline that he would later apply to his ragged American recruits. Enduring French and Indian “terror tactics” and debilitating dysentery, he made a name as an intrepid and adaptive leader (for example, he clothed his men “after the Indian fashion” for one campaign), while revealing already by 1757 in his letters a sense of resentment against what he perceived as “a deliberate policy of discrimination against colonials.” The hard reality of fighting in frontier warfare dispelled notions of old-world gallantry and created the hardened soldier Washington became rather more characteristically than the gentleman farmer he fashioned himself (and was often portrayed) later on. Brumwell’s subsequent tracking of Washington through the battles of the Revolutionary War seem almost anticlimactic in comparison to the dynamic early annals of this heroic man.

The First Father waves from his high horse with this felicitous new assessment of his derring-do.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62365-100-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Quercus

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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