Kirkus Reviews –
Published to coincide with what would have been her 100th birthday, this biography of the iconic Julia Child (1912–2004) does full justice to its complex subject. Spitz (The Saucier's Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe, 2008, etc.) describes the "irrepressible reality" of Child, who became a TV superstar, effectively launching "public television into the spotlight, big-time." In his view, the 1961 publication of her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, came at just the right time. Americans were tired of the preceding "era of dreary button-down conformity," and they were ready for a gastronomic revolution. Frustrated housewives reading Betty Friedan's groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique welcomed the larger-than-life personality and showmanship of this tall, outspoken woman as she demonstrated the intricacies of French recipes with what appeared to be blithe disregard when things went wrong. Child reveled in her celebrity status, but this was only one aspect of her complex personality. Like most women of her generation born in traditional upper-middle-class homes, she was not expected to have an independent career. A wartime stint in the OSS was liberating. Not only did she hold a highly responsible job, but she met and married career diplomat Paul Child, moving with him to France. Popular accounts of her life, including the book and film Julie and Julia, describe her enchantment with French haute cuisine and her determination to master the skills of a top chef. Spitz captures another side of her complex personality: her fierce diligence in mastering the science as well as the art of cooking through detailed experimentation and her concern to translate the preparation of complex French recipes for readers in America--an attention to detail that carried over to her TV programs. An engrossing biography of a woman worthy of iconic status.
Kirkus Reviews –
Newly declassified intelligence files flesh out the intricately interwoven network of World War II spies who formed the Double Cross British espionage system. Unlike the narrower focus of Stephen Talty's Agent Garbo (2012), veteran espionage writer and Times (London) journalist Macintyre (Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, 2010, etc.) fashions a more expansive, ambitious tale of five double agents with dubious credentials but certain loyalties employed by the British to "cook up a diet of harmless truths, half-truths and uncheckable untruths to feed to the enemy." Double Cross was a pun on the Twenty (XX) Committee formed in January 1941 by British intelligence agencies, led by John Masterman and aimed at coordinating the work of a new strain of double agents. These included the Serbian playboy Dusko Popov (aka Tricycle), who creatively worked the Berlin-Lisbon circuit, though he failed to create an American counterpart to Double Cross because of FBI distrust (and his wild expenditures); Polish patriot Roman Czerniawski, exposed by the Germans in Nazi-occupied France and compelled to infiltrate the British spy system; the bored Peruvian gambler Elvira de la Fuente Chaudoir, known as Bronx, employed by MI6 to "coat trail" some influential Germans while larking about Vichy France; the former Spanish chicken farmer and Franco refugee Juan Pujol (aka Garbo), who managed by his confounding literary flourishes to hoodwink the Germans utterly regarding the Normandy landings; and Lily Sergeyev (aka Treasure) who cultivated her charm on Maj. Emile Kliemann of the Abwehr. While the spies were highly effective in deflecting interest in the Torch landings, and later Fortitude, the run-up to Normandy proved disastrous. Moreover, the dangers of getting picked up by the Gestapo and tortured for information was a constant danger, as in the case of Johnny Jebsen (aka Artist). Invisible ink, double-agent homing pigeons and a Hollywood double for Gen. Monty--nicely woven tales of stealth, brashness and derring-do.
Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger by Christopher Andersen
Kirkus Reviews –
Journalist and best-selling celebrity biographer Andersen (William and Kate: A Royal Love Story, 2010, etc.) brings his taste for the titillating tales of British royalty to this breezy, shamelessly shallow recap of rock god Mick Jagger's life so far. Not surprisingly, considering Jagger's well-known lack of interest in his autobiography, the author didn't spend any time talking to the subject of his book. He lifts all Jagger quotes from other sources, as well as those of Jagger's band mates, family and closest friends. (Much of Andersen's description of Jagger's boyhood hometown seems to have relied heavily on Keith Richards' memoir, Life.) Andersen tried to make up for this lack of cooperation from the immediate circle by speaking to scores of the star's past lovers and business associates, including Marianne Faithfull, Bianca Jagger, Andrew Oldham and the late Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records. The author does well enough with the material he had to work with, giving the story all the verve of a 300-page People story. (He was once senior editor at that celebrity-celebrating weekly.) Readers who know nothing about Jagger or the Rolling Stones will get the basic story: the development of Jagger's iconic androgyny, the drug busts, Altamont, the tax exile, the knighthood, the brotherly love and rivalry between Jagger and Richards, and the women--especially the women. Readers will eventually realize that Jagger's sex life has been vastly more important to his identity, if not his fame, than his career as an artist. Those who know something about Jagger and care about rock 'n' roll will learn little from this book. Skip it and read Life instead.