An average biography. Jane Dunn’s Daphne du Maurier and Her Sisters (2014) takes a more capacious and satisfying look at the...

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MANDERLEY FOREVER

A BIOGRAPHY OF DAPHNE DU MAURIER

A familiar portrait of the prolific British writer.

Fiction writer de Rosnay (A Paris Affair, 2015, etc.) claims that Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca (1938) exerted an indelible influence on her work. When a friend suggested that she write the first French biography of du Maurier, she took on the challenge, deciding to follow in the writer’s footsteps in England and France to discover “the secrets of her life, her inspiration, her work.” De Rosnay offers only brief accounts of her travels, beginning at the Terraces, near Regent Park, where her subject was born; continuing to the village where the teenage Daphne went to boarding school and began an affair with her young headmistress; to the coast of Cornwall, where Daphne walked; to Menabilly, the writer’s beloved home and prototype of Manderley, where de Rosnay’s effort to visit was rebuffed; and to Kilmarth, her last home. All of these sites, though, hardly yielded secrets. Instead, de Rosnay draws largely on du Maurier’s autobiography, letters, and several fine biographies. She adds little to the already available material; this book’s distinction is its presentation in present tense, since de Rosnay aims to describe her subject “as if I were filming her, camera on my shoulder, so that my readers could instantly understand who she was.” This strategy, however, does not convey any more intimacy or revelation than a more conventional authorial voice. Besides chronicling her subject’s successful writing career, de Rosnay reprises her family life, marriage, motherhood, and contradictory sexuality. Homophobic, du Maurier denied that she was a lesbian, but as a child, she invented a male alter ego, Eric Avon, that she felt was her true identity. When she met the virile Tommy Browning, she “shivers” at the “masculine contact” of his kiss. She married him and relegated Eric to a box. He emerged, “sparkling and resplendent,” when she became infatuated with several women.

An average biography. Jane Dunn’s Daphne du Maurier and Her Sisters (2014) takes a more capacious and satisfying look at the life.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-09913-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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