Grescoe exuberantly captures the glamour and intrigue of a lost world.

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SHANGHAI GRAND

FORBIDDEN LOVE AND INTERNATIONAL INTRIGUE IN A DOOMED WORLD

An intrepid journalist in free-wheeling 1930s Shanghai.

At that time, Shanghai was “one of the most cosmopolitan places on the face of the earth,” replete with “gin slings and sing-song girls, rickshaw coolies and Bolshevik spies.” It was a place, writes journalist Grescoe (Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile, 2012, etc.) in this lively biography of a city and some of its colorful inhabitants, “to which the ambitious, the wily, and the desperate could escape to discard old identities and recreate their lives from scratch.” New Yorker writer Emily Hahn arrived there in 1935, intending to stay for two weeks. She fled, along with other expatriates, in 1943. Those eight years were filled with adventure, danger, love, and sex. She soon met the “free-spending playboy” and real estate mogul Sir Victor Sassoon, who had built, among many other edifices, the sumptuous Cathay Hotel, “the best address in the Far East.” He lived in its penthouse, where he entertained the rich, famous, and beautiful, such as the 30-year-old Hahn. Besides accepting gifts from Sir Victor, Hahn supported herself by reporting for a Shanghai newspaper, and soon she began to contribute pieces about exotic China to the New Yorker. Among them were “pen portraits” of a man she called Pan Heh-ven. He was Zau Sinmay, a famous poet—dashing, handsome, “fabulously wealthy”—and her lover. When he balked at being the subject of her “cultural stereotyping,” she was unapologetic: “I use people,” she said. Sinmay introduced her to smoking opium, which accelerated from “a harmless indulgence” to a 12-pipe-per-day addiction before she checked into a hospital for a cure. Hahn’s challenges intensified during the 13-week Battle of Shanghai in 1937, turbulent Chinese politics, and the Japanese occupation. The author deftly follows Hahn’s adventures through this “city of legend.”

Grescoe exuberantly captures the glamour and intrigue of a lost world.

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-04971-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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