PositiveThe Wall Street JournalPerhaps Lady Bird Johnson was not the totally uncritical and subservient wife she was generally assumed to be ... Yet such presumptions have persisted in the copious histories of that administration, prompting Julia Sweig to correct the record by writing \'Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight.\' ... Unfortunately, she also picked up the diary’s approach, which, she notes, was the opposite of President Johnson’s \'tendency to overshare\': to reveal Mrs. Johnson’s experience without revealing herself ... \'Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight\' is not a biography. Ms. Sweig refrains from probing Mrs. Johnson’s psyche. She briefly summarizes her subject’s early life in Texas before 1934, when, at age 21, she met and married the future president, who at that time had been elected to no public office. Mrs. Johnson’s periodic professions of self-doubt are mentioned but not explored. The author quotes her subject’s writing, including texts for speeches, but no attempt is made to reproduce the colorful Southern way that Lady Bird Johnson actually talked ... Yet we find that Lady Bird was his most effective political adviser in regard to his career moves. Lyndon Johnson did not just talk things over with his wife: He asked her to prepare position papers listing the pros and cons of his choices ... As a correction of history, and validation of effort, this is a worthy book. But there is not a juicy word in it about surely one of the most colorful administrations of modern times.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalBy identifying the debutante custom as a minor part of women’s history, The Season confers more dignity on it than do those annual posh magazine spreads picturing Texan heiresses and the offspring of movie stars venturing abroad to meet the scions of defunct aristocracies ... [Richardson\'s] round-up of sample cities that showcase young women—in formats ranging from the formal cotillions in New York, London and Paris, to the carnival of New Orleans and fiesta of San Antonio, to local festivals in smaller towns—seems designed to back up her statement that such presentations actually have been increasing since the 1990s.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMs. McCubbin...presents her subject according to a familiar pattern, as a plucky woman overcoming adversity. She variously attributes Betty Ford’s addictions to a \'feminine mystique\' situation of being trapped in overwhelming domesticity, a pinched nerve, stress, a bad back, over-scheduling, depression, arthritis, stage fright, and a doctor willing to prescribe whatever was requested ... The author credits the eventual recovery to the support of a loving family, rosily pictured in this book. Yet almost incidentally, she quotes one of the Fords’ sons, Jack, saying that he was embarrassed to bring friends home ... This biography is cast as what we recognize as an \'inspirational survivor story\'—personally faultless people courageously triumphing over disease in the family. It has an unusually happy conclusion in the worthy achievement of establishing the Betty Ford Center in California to treat other addicts. But it would have been more interesting—and relevant to the world of today—to have explored more deeply how Betty Ford’s experiences shaped the national discourse.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice, by Judith Mackrell, tells the stories of these notoriously eccentric women... Their life stories are just as flashy, a kaleidoscope of bad marriages, bad divorces, Fortuny dresses, outlandish costume parties, fashionable portraits, excessive champagne, famous lovers, pickup lovers, alienated children and overlapping celebrity acquaintances. Yes, it’s salacious, but it’s also somewhat repetitive ... Strangely, there’s little sense of Venice in this book, outside of the house ... Perhaps Lady Castlerosse might have been something other than a society courtesan. But Mackrell’s documentation of their relentless self-absorption and unfiltered vanity argues against it.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMs. Gordon interviewed scores of relatives, friends, tradespeople and servants for this biography, and by their testimony Bunny Mellon—despite bursts of generosity and social consciousness—was not a nice person. It isn’t that they tell nasty stories; rather, they admit to such sycophantic behavior as relishing her luxurious presents and then whining at being dropped without explanation (which happened to most of them) and begging in vain to be taken back into favor … Ms. Gordon accounts for all this rudeness and cruelty by making frequent use of the all-purpose excuse that Bunny Mellon ‘felt insecure.’
MixedThe New York Times...most of the book is gentle. It is clear from the beginning who the favored characters are, and we can be assured they will end up satisfactorily. The book is prettily written, with charming descriptions and bits of historical detail. It even wanders into Dickens territory, with characters named Mr. Puddlecombe, Mr. Poot and Mr. Pike, and an urchin called Snout.