Review Roundup: The Tried Life of Aang San Suu Kyi, “Charlotte au Chocolat” by Charlotte Silver, and Anne Lamott’s “Some Assembly Required”

"The Lady and the Peacock" by Peter Popham

What fortuitous timing: Peter Popham's "The Lady and the Peacock," exploring the repressed and hard fought life of opposition politician Aang San Suu Kyi, hits shelves days after Suu Kyi landed a surprise victory in her Burmese homeland. Following a twenty year house arrest, Suu Kyi is once again free to champion democratic principles on a national stage. Lucy Popescu of The National writes: "In his accessible and impeccably researched biography of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Peter Popham gives a clear-sighted appraisal of how the regime's brutal methods have produced this crippling state of fear." And in what is "by far the best book yet written on this elusive heroine," Philip Delves of The Wall Street Journal writes, Mr. Popham is "rightly admiring" of Suu Kyi, who has been "foremost a moral leader." Here's to hoping she'll live a full life of freedom, enough to inspire additional biographies that chronicle her full potential.
Bio-Metric: 4/5

"Charlotte au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood" by Charlotte Silver

In this memoir of memories and menus, Charlotte Silver recalls a childhood served by  restaurant-owning parents in Massachusetts. The entree of the book is not Charlotte, however, but rather her mother and the sweet aroma of nostalgia. To Ligaya Mishan of The New York Times, "Nostalgia is the point. The book is an elegy — to the days when cooks smoked on the line and rode motorcycles without helmets; to a time before everyone took up yoga and progressive child-care and whole-grain diets." But the dish isn't quite right: "...while 'Charlotte au Chocolat' charms, it doesn’t quite sate. You’re still hungry afterward." Heller McAlpin of The Christian Science Monitor agrees: "'Charlotte au Chocolate' is a sweet but limited book about the author’s solitary, seemingly glamorous childhood as a rich little poor girl." And much like a family's reticence to disclose secret recipes, Charlotte also isn't forthcoming with her emotions. "It’s hard to know, because even when Silver illustrates the details of her upbringing with luminous clarity, she rarely tells us how she feels," writes Devra First of The Boston Globe. A good read for the nostalgia of a "Cambridge past," but that aside, "'Charlotte au Chocolat' is a lighter creature, sponge cake and Chantilly cream."
Bio-Metric: 2.5/5

"Some Assembly Required" by Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott

Building on her painfully honest memoir of pregnancy and motherhood entitled "Operating Instructions," Anne Lamott continues to knit the fabric of family relationships with "Some Assembly Required," a reflective account of her life as a newborn grandmother. This time, however, she's aided by her son-turned-father Sam. Yvonne Zipp of The Washington Post writes: "In a foreword, Sam says that 'Operating Instructions' remains 'the greatest gift anyone has given me' and that he wanted his son to have a book of his own. In that analysis, 'Some Assembly Required' works just fine." Heller McAlpin at NPR notes how Lamott's struggles in the past have in many ways defined her writing, and "as always, Lamott's 'raggedy faith' is central to her, and whether you share her concerns or not, you appreciate her candor." Meanwhile, Steve Almond of The Boston Globe notes how "'Some Assembly Required' is far too sentimental to be called a literary triumph. But it might well be the dawning of the age of Granny Lit."
Bio-Metric: 4/5