A great resource for gaining a further understanding of these two outsized characters and their era.

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MY DARLING WINSTON

THE LETTERS BETWEEN WINSTON CHURCHILL AND HIS MOTHER

Lough (No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, 2015) has collected all available correspondence between Winston and his mother, Jennie Churchill, from his childhood until the end of her life.

With excellent explanations of the events involved, the author gives readers first-rate insight into the personalities of mother and son. “I estimate at least three-quarters of their letters survive,” writes Lough in his context-filled introduction. “Although many have found their way individually into biographies of either mother or son, they have never before appeared as an uninterrupted correspondence between the two.” Winston’s early studies were dismal; he failed his first two attempts to gain entry into the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, before he started in 1893. Many of his letters to his mother complained of lack of money and not enough letters or visits. The impression from his early years is of a tedious, whining boy looking to his mother to fix everything—which she usually did. Money was seemingly always a problem, and mother and son were similar in many ways. Both were selfish, short-tempered, and extravagant, and both talked too freely and always felt entitled to the best. Once Winston got his posting to India, he realized how little knowledge he had of the liberal arts. Amid catching butterflies and playing polo, he spent his time studying the works of Thomas Macaulay and Edward Gibbon. He discovered early his aptitude for writing and found a clear love of politics. His mother’s contacts would clear the way for both endeavors. His ego shows in many of his letters—e.g., he told his mother that during battle, bullets were not worth considering because the gods would not create so potent a being for so prosaic an ending. The author includes the available letters with very few gaps, notably after she married a man Winston’s age and during his Boer War escapades. Throughout, he always relied on her help furthering his writing and political careers.

A great resource for gaining a further understanding of these two outsized characters and their era.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-882-2

Page Count: 620

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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