At its most obvious, this is the first half of a rather bland biography of Eisenhower—partly from primary sources, but adding nothing consequential to the record—by a practiced hand and staunch admirer: to Ambrose, Eisenhower was "a great and good man," "one of the great captains of military history," and "one of the most successful presidents of the twentieth century." As a practical matter, much of it approximates a condensation of Ambrose's 1970 account of Eisenhower's WW II role, The Supreme Commander—from which many passages are taken—with the addition of material on Mamie (from Letters to Mamie), Kay Summersby (from her two books), and son John (from his memoirs); once again, too, Ambrose purports to be recreating events from Eisenhower's point of view—now with a "personal" component. In the last analysis, however, the Eisenhower we see—sedulously avoiding controversy, for instance, from 1930s Washington to WW II France to the presidency (and McCarthy)—is not very different from the figure portrayed in Peter Lyon's sophisticated interpretive biography or by military historians. Apropos of the earlier years, Ambrose offers a kind of split image—stressing (almost mechanically) the narrowness of Eisenhower's family-and-Abilene background, his rote learning at West Point, the US military's suspicion of politicians (particularly during the interwar period). And though he moots Eisenhower's wrong-side-of-the-tracks upbringing (insightfully examined by others), he does make subsequent reference to "buried feelings of jealousy and bitterness, like those of his childhood"; though he makes much of Eisenhower's unbroken attachment to Mamie, he does depict her querulousness as a trial (and suggests, reasonably enough, that Ike might have been in love with Kay too). On the war itself, he details "how often and how seriously Eisenhower botched things in North Africa" (from the Darlan deal to Kasserine Pass); justifies Eisenhower's selection for command of Overlord on the basis of his ability to direct combined British-American operations (not "his generalship, which in truth had been cautious and hesitant"); and takes full note of his crucial "desire to appease" Montgomery and Patton—leading to some of the war's "great mistakes" (like the failure to quickly take Antwerp and perhaps end hostilities in 1944). Still later, Ambrose notes that Eisenhower was "ashamed" of not having defended Marshall against McCarthy's charges in the 1952 campaign. None of this, however, differs from the historical consensus—nor does Ambrose's defense of Eisenhower's end-of-war decision not to race the Russians to Berlin. What he adds is a glaze of veneration: Eisenhower is a great man, and a great military captain, and prospectively a great president, because he had great human qualities—above all, the "self-confidence" that inspired trust in wartime and impelled him to seek the presidency ("He knew that he was smarter, more experienced, and had better principles than his competitors. . ."). A curious formulation, but one that will likely appeal—as the book will—to others who feel as Ambrose does.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1983

ISBN: 0671440691

Page Count: 648

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

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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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