PositiveWashington PostAll this will be fascinating to beauty (and scholarship) pageant devotees who are curious about the before, during and immediate afterward of a winner’s life ... What was new to me was the plight of the organization and the people who clutched power within it. I probably would have welcomed more of that, along with pictures of these lesser gods ... I confess I became a little impatient with all the names of all the contestants.
PositiveThe Washington PostMiles’s tone swings all this speed-herstory along, with a giant helping of feminist theory. On the book goes, finding daring women of all kinds. Miles takes on not just the patriarchy but the phallusy as well ... She introduces us to explorers, pilots, warriors, spies, writers, queens, traitors, courtesans, athletes and politicians we’ve not heard of before. And some we have. Alongside their brief biographies are frequent asides about the lack of recognition these ladies endured, or something about how if men had to menstruate it would become a sacred act. In other words, Miles is pissed off ... Woven throughout The Women’s History of the Modern World are little pauses — almost like cul de sacs — in which Miles (who is married and has grown children) hints that conventional women’s lives centered on a husband and family are not always the most satisfying or enriching ... Miles skips many damning stories of women who were the true stars behind their men, but then that could fill volumes.
RaveThe Washington PostCollins is a cheerful companion through the decades. Right from the introduction, the reader understands Collins’s point of view: A woman can be kind, intelligent, hard-working and successful, but we’re always going to wonder if she’s coloring her hair, or has gained or lost a little weight. Nevertheless, there are dozens upon dozens of heroic stories of remarkable women in this book that will be new to the average reader ... This is a history book, a sprightly one ... devotes much more time and space to politics and good works.
Steven M. Gillon
MixedThe Washington PostYes, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was a strict parent ... And sure, Aristotle Onassis was probably not the best choice for a fun stepdad, but nothing thus far tells us anything the casual Kennedy watcher didn’t already know. In fact, it had this reviewer scratching her head, wondering why the big embargoed fuss over the book ... it’s not until two-thirds of the way through this book that we get to the what-I-hate-to-call-the-juicy-parts, complete with a villainess or two ... Page after page of never-before-revealed details about [the magazine George\'s] advertising plans are something to look forward to here, as well as the conflict that was a constant in Kennedy’s life—people just wanting to look at him (is that so wrong?) vs. taking him seriously ... In this portrait, [Carolyn Bessette] comes across as unhappy, unhinged and self-absorbed ... America’s Reluctant Prince underscores a problem in the genre of friends becoming biographers of their subjects. On the one hand, the writer has access to his own memories and mutual friends. On the other, he is perhaps too close to his subject to dig deep. He functions more as protector than as provocateur.