Category: Biographies & Memoirs

Under the Wide and Starry Sky: A Novel

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Under the Wide and Starry Sky: A Novel


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • TODAY SHOW BOOK CLUB PICK • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

From Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank, comes her much-anticipated second novel, which tells the improbable love story of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.
 
At the age of thirty-five, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne has left her philandering husband in San Francisco to set sail for Belgium—with her three children and nanny in tow—to study art. It is a chance for this adventurous woman to start over, to make a better life for all of them, and to pursue her own desires.  Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her children repair to a quiet artists’ colony in France where she can recuperate. Emerging from a deep sorrow, she meets a lively Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who falls instantly in love with the earthy, independent, and opinionated “belle Americaine.”
           
Fanny does not immediately take to the slender young lawyer who longs to devote his life to writing—and who would eventually pen such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson’s charms, and the two begin a fierce love affair—marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness—that spans the decades and the globe. The shared life of these two strong-willed individuals unfolds into an adventure as impassioned and unpredictable as any of Stevenson’s own unforgettable tales.

Praise for Under the Wide and Starry Sky
 
“A richly imagined [novel] of love, laughter, pain and sacrifice . . . Under the Wide and Starry Sky is a dual portrait, with Louis and Fanny sharing the limelight in the best spirit of teamwork—a romantic partnership.”USA Today
 
“Powerful . . . flawless . . . a perfect example of what a man and a woman will do for love, and what they can accomplish when it’s meant to be.”Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 
“Spectacular . . . an exhilarating epic about a free-spirited couple who traveled the world yet found home only in one another.”Booklist (starred review)
 
“Horan’s prose is gorgeous enough to keep a reader transfixed, even if the story itself weren’t so compelling. I kept re-reading passages just to savor the exquisite wordplay. . . . Few writers are as masterful as she is at blending carefully researched history with the novelist’s art.”The Dallas Morning News
 
“A classic artistic bildungsroman and a retort to the genre, a novel that shows how love and marriage can simultaneously offer inspiration and encumbrance.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Nancy Horan has done it again, capturing the entwined lives of Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson so uncannily, it reads like truth.”—Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress
 
“Horan has a distinct knack for evoking the rich, complicated lives of long-gone artists and the women who inspired them.”Entertainment Weekly

From the Trade Paperback edition.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust

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The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust


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Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman in Vienna when the Gestapo forced her into a ghetto and then into a labor camp. When she returned home months later, she knew she would become a hunted woman and went underground. With the help of a Christian friend, she emerged in Munich as Grete Denner. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who fell in love with her. Despite Edith’s protests and even her eventual confession that she was Jewish, he married her and kept her identity a secret.

In wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, almost paralyzing fear. She tells of German officials who casually questioned the lineage of her parents; of how, when giving birth to her daughter, she refused all painkillers, afraid that in an altered state of mind she might reveal something of her past; and of how, after her husband was captured by the Soviet army, she was bombed out of her house and had to hide while drunken Russian soldiers raped women on the street.

Yet despite the risk it posed to her life, Edith created a remarkable record of survival. She saved every document and set of papers issued to her, as well as photographs she managed to take inside labor camps. Now part of the permanent collection at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., these hundreds of documents, several of which are included in this volume, form the fabric of a gripping new chapter in the history of the Holocaust — complex, troubling, and ultimately triumphant.

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase to Catch Lincoln’s Killer (P.S.)

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Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase to Catch Lincoln’s Killer (P.S.)


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The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.

James L. Swanson’s Manhunt is a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you’ve never read it before.

Escape

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Escape


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The dramatic first-person account of life inside an ultra-fundamentalist American religious sect, and one woman’s courageous flight to freedom with her eight children.

When she was eighteen years old, Carolyn Jessop was coerced into an arranged marriage with a total stranger: a man thirty-two years her senior. Merril Jessop already had three wives. But arranged plural marriages were an integral part of Carolyn’s heritage: She was born into and raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the radical offshoot of the Mormon Church that had settled in small communities along the Arizona-Utah border. Over the next fifteen years, Carolyn had eight children and withstood her husband’s psychological abuse and the watchful eyes of his other wives who were locked in a constant battle for supremacy.

Carolyn’s every move was dictated by her husband’s whims. He decided where she lived and how her children would be treated. He controlled the money she earned as a school teacher. He chose when they had sex; Carolyn could only refuse—at her peril. For in the FLDS, a wife’s compliance with her husband determined how much status both she and her children held in the family. Carolyn was miserable for years and wanted out, but she knew that if she tried to leave and got caught, her children would be taken away from her. No woman in the country had ever escaped from the FLDS and managed to get her children out, too. But in 2003, Carolyn chose freedom over fear and fled her home with her eight children. She had $20 to her name.

Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools. Against this background, Carolyn Jessop’s flight takes on an extraordinary, inspiring power. Not only did she manage a daring escape from a brutal environment, she became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS. And in 2006, her reports to the Utah attorney general on church abuses formed a crucial part of the case that led to the arrest of their notorious leader, Warren Jeffs.

Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy

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At age three he was using knives to frighten his teenage aunt. By fourteen he was a thief, animal abuser, and peeping tom who liked to pull little girls into the woods to scare them. Ted Bundy killed at least thirty-five girls and women, and possibly hundreds. Was his first victim eight-year-old Ann Marie Burr who disappeared from their Tacoma, Washington neighborhood in 1961? Her body was never found and there were no clues, just two tenacious detectives who spent the rest of their lives trying to solve the case. Was Bundy telling the truth when he told a hypothetical story about killing Ann and dumping her into a muddy pit? With new information about Ted Bundy’s childhood, interviews with those who knew him best, and the memories of the Burr family, Ted and Ann is the story of one the 20th century’s most fascinating cold cases.

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great

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The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great


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From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.
 
Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has loftier, more dangerous ambitions. What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie’s confidante—and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power.
 
“A majestic and splendidly written tale of pride, passion, intrigue, and deceit that is brought alive from the first page to the last.”—Rosalind Laker

“At the same time baroque and intimate, worldly and domestic, wildly strange and soulfully familiar, The Winter Palace offers a flickering glimpse of history through the gauze of deft entertainment.”—The Washington Post
 
“A thrilling point of view . . . Readers are treated to a firsthand account of the young princess’s slow ascent to the throne, a path deliciously strewn with discarded lovers and sanguine court intrigues.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
“[A] brilliant, bold historical novel . . . This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.”—Booklist (starred review)

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir

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My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir


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Dick Van Dyke, indisputably one of the greats of the golden age of television, is admired and beloved by audiences the world over for his beaming smile, his physical dexterity, his impeccable comic timing, his ridiculous stunts, and his unforgettable screen roles.
           
His trailblazing television program, The Dick Van DykeShow (produced by Carl Reiner, who has written the foreword to this memoir), was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s and introduced another major television star, Mary Tyler Moore. But Dick Van Dyke was also an enormously engaging movie star whose films, including Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, have been discovered by a new generation of fans and are as beloved today as they were when they first appeared. Who doesn’t know the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?
           
A colorful, loving, richly detailed look at the decades of a multilayered life, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, will enthrall every generation of reader, from baby-boomers who recall when Rob Petrie became a household name, to all those still enchanted by Bert’s “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” This is a lively, heartwarming memoir of a performer who still thinks of himself as a “simple song-and-dance man,” but who is, in every sense of the word, a classic entertainer.

From the Hardcover edition.

The True History of the Elephant Man: The Definitive Account of the Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Joseph Carey Merrick

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Due to horrible physical deformities, he spent much of his life as a fair-ground freak. He was hounded, persecuted, and starving, until his fortune changed and he was rescued, housed, and fed by the distinguished surgeon, Frederick Treves. The subject of several books, a Broadway hit, and a film, Joseph Merrick has become part of popular mythology. Here, in this fully revised edition containing much fresh information, are the true and unromanticized facts of his life.

Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice

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Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice


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From acclaimed biographer Paula Byrne, the sensational true tale that inspired the major motion picture Belle (May 2014) starring Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, Penelope Wilton, and Matthew Goode—a stunning story of the first mixed-race girl introduced to high society England and raised as a lady.  

The illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an enslaved African woman, Dido Belle was sent to live with her great-uncle, the Earl of Mansfield, one of the most powerful men of the time and a leading opponent of slavery. Growing up in his lavish estate, Dido was raised as a sister and companion to her white cousin, Elizabeth. When a joint portrait of the girls, commissioned by Mansfield, was unveiled, eighteenth-century England was shocked to see a black woman and white woman depicted as equals. Inspired by the painting, Belle vividly brings to life this extraordinary woman caught between two worlds, and illuminates the great civil rights question of her age: the fight to end slavery.

Belle includes 20 pages of black-and-white photos.

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation

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The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation


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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a truck bound for the slaughterhouse. The recent Dutch immigrant recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up nag and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, he ultimately taught Snowman how to fly. Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.