THE LAST LION

WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL: VISIONS OF GLORY, 1874-1932

Together, Churchill and Manchester—the lion and the lionizer, the quotable and the quoter, the anecdoted and the anecdotist—can hardly miss in the marketplace. Even those who know better may find 900 pp. of juicy Churchilliana hard to pass up. This is extravagance, however, with a motive. When Manchester writes that Churchill, after Dunkirk, "spoke. . . to the English people as no one had before or ever would again," he has in mind the end of Empire, and the romantic, bellicose, paternalistic Churchill as its last great embodiment. It's a splendid theme, at any rate, for a spectacle—with flares shooting off in all directions. Churchill, to Manchester, is a 19th-century man—but also the inventor of the tank and an early champion of air power (on both of which M. has fine, fresh material). He's a consummate politician, a hopeless politician. (Similarly, Stanley Baldwin is "a shrewder politician than Churchill" on p. 784; "in his long career"—on p. 799—"Baldwin did few clever things.") "As a youth [Churchill] decided that the great issues of his time would be decided on the battlefield." As a child, he suppressed his rage against his parents, turning his hostility inward, becoming a depressive; in war, he found an outlet for his aggression and, in bolshevism and Hitler, worthy enemies, The book is erratic, inconsistent, undiscriminating in other respects too. To absolve Churchill of blame for Gallipoli (a major stress), Manchester cites Rhodes James and Liddell Hart—the best of sources; to fill out his murderous portraits of mother Jennie and especially father Randolph, he leans on Frank Harris (and can't understand why people don't credit Harris' tale of how RC contracted syphilis). He writes sniggeringly of Jennie's lovers (and other sexual matters—referring repeatedly, for instance, to "the expensive Dutch cup" and other contraceptive curiosa)—but he also provides a sparkling account of young Winston's Kaiser Wilhelm/Crystal Palace weekend with Count Kinsky. Periodically, he catalogues what's-going-on-in-Britain: a paragraph on the theater, sheer writerly legerdemain ("At his Majesty's Theatre you could see . . ."), climaxes in a crackling bit of WC/GBS badinage. The book has no proportion; but except as political history, it does have the virtues of its excesses. In a curious way, however, Manchester's massively detailed glorification of Churchill has the same effect as Robert Caro's recent, massively detailed damnation of Lyndon Johnson: it sets up counter-currents. We are reminded of Churchill's dogged intervention in the Russian civil war and, subsequently, of "his visceral reaction against socialism—he was always mistaking pink for red." We're reminded, apropos of his fight against Indian self-government (which Manchester tries hard to justify), of his lifelong racial prejudice. The book ends, in 1932, with Lady Astor's assurance to Hitler: "Churchill? . . . Oh, he's finished." As a curtain-line, terrific (if unsubtle). But Manchester may also have demonstrated, by this omnium-gatherum, why Churchill's greatness lay in wartime leadership.

Pub Date: May 2, 1983

ISBN: 0385313489

Page Count: 996

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983

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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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