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Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson: New Women in Search of Love and Power Hardcover – November 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345459865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345459862
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Advance praise for Dangerous Ambition
 
“With grace and insight, Susan Hertog has written a masterly dual biography of two of the most formidable women of their age. This is a deeply researched, carefully wrought book, at once illuminating and entertaining, and it brings Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson back to vivid life. As readers, we owe Hertog a great debt.”—Jon Meacham, author of American Lion
 
“Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson were brave, driven, ferociously intelligent, and magnificently right about the thing that mattered more than anything else in their era: the Nazi threat. In this well-researched, fluent, and groundbreaking work, Susan Hertog successfully connects their personal and professional lives, drawing profound moral conclusions from the friendship between these two ambitious, high-achieving, and admirable women.”—Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War
 
“Susan Hertog brilliantly captures these two women as they lived, loved, and marshaled their power to fight for Western civilization in the hour of its greatest challenge. We know what Dorothy Thompson and Rebecca West did; Hertog shows us how they did it.”—Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man
 
“They were literary icons—among the most admired writers of their day. At a time when most women were made to choose between the two, Britain’s Rebecca West and America’s Dorothy Thompson never managed to reconcile professional success with personal fulfillment. It’s all unveiled here in Susan Hertog’s deft and perceptive portrait of their accomplished but messy lives—riveting tales of triumph and tragedy. This is an illuminating, sobering read.”—Ellen Chesler, author of Woman of Valor
                                                                              
“Meticulously researched, interpretively daring, and beautifully written, Dangerous Ambition interweaves the stories of two remarkably talented women writers (and their sons and lovers) as they stumble and dance their way through the terrible twentieth century, struggling with their conflicting roles as wives and mothers, witnesses and chroniclers of a world gone mad.”—David Nasaw, author of Andrew Carnegie
 
“I very much enjoyed this worthy look at two big lives, these fascinating women of the twentieth century: both intellectuals, both serious writers, both passionately engaged in the great issues of their day, and both functioning, in different ways, as true leaders. This is a great story, and Susan Hertog tells it with verve and spirit.”—Peggy Noonan, author of Patriotic Grace

About the Author

Susan Hertog was born in New York City and graduated from Hunter College. After earning her M.F.A. from Columbia University, she became a freelance journalist and photographer. She is the author of one previous book, Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life. She lives in Manhattan with her family.

More About the Author

Susan Hertog was born in New York City and graduated from Hunter College. After earning her MFA from Columbia University, she became a freelance journalist and photographer. She is the author of Dangerous Ambition and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Her Life. She lives in Manhattan with her family.

Her Website: www.susanhertog.com

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/SusanHertog

Customer Reviews

So when this book came to my attention I made it my job to read it and fill in the void surrounding these two.
Rudi Franke
I highly recommend this book for anyone with an avid interest in history as well as for book groups for fascinating potential for discussion.
wendy
While her style is often quirky, Hertog's concept is appealing, but the structure does not do justice to the concept.
David Madden

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By AgnesMack on November 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I won Dangerous Ambition through the Goodreads First Read program, and overall I'm glad I did. This was a fascinating and extensively researched biography of two very intriguing women.

I didn't know much about either Rebecca West or Dorothy Thompson, but I do believe that this book gave me a comprehensive overview of their good and bad qualities. It's true that neither woman came off as a completely likeable person, but I didn't find this to detract from the appeal of the book. In fact, I enjoyed it all the more because the author clearly held nothing back.

Both women lead dynamic lives, especially considering the time periods in which they lived. Dorothy was an accomplished journalist. In fact, she was the first reporter to be granted an interview with Adolf Hitler, and was likewise the first reporter expelled from Germany, after she questioned his manhood, breeding and mental stability.

Rebecca was extremely prolific, and wrote dozens upon dozens of critiques. She was of the opinion that her female contemporaries were writing the best work, and that the 'establishment' deemed their work as 'minor fiction'.

Of course much of this book centers around the love lives of these women, which I wasn't particularly looking forward to - until I discovered that Dorothy was married to Sinclair Lewis, and that Rebecca had a long-term affair and child with H.G. Wells. The look into the lives of these accomplished authors was quite interesting in its own right, especially as the book followed their successes and falls from grace.

I expected there to be more overlap between Rebecca and Dorothy's lives, and I expected that they would be very good friends.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By wendy on November 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This meticulously researched and compellingly written biography examines the lives of West and Thompson amidst the context of the historical and political times in which they lived. While I emerged from this book resoundingly glad not to have been a close friend, let alone a spouse nor progeny, detritus of the lives of both women, I was ultimately awed by their fierce intellects, kinetic energy, drive and fearlessness. It was fascinating to make their literary acquaintance.

I believe it to be tempting but frivilous to consign this book to the genre of feminism; their achievements would have been equally impressive for either sex. But it is interesting to note that the feminist movement of the 60's would have done well to have learned from history by scrutinizing the lives of women such as West and Thompson and seen a cautionary tale about choices.

I highly recommend this book for anyone with an avid interest in history as well as for book groups for fascinating potential for discussion.

This book has left me wanting to do more with my own life, a significant impact from what began as a leisurely read.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Stengl on August 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I got what I wanted from this book, and a lot more.

For starters I was looking for a behind the scenes view of Sinclair Lewis. I enjoyed his book Elmer Gantry, but by the time I'd finished both Babbit and Mainstreet I was thinking, Ok so you've pointed out mediocrity and conformity in society, but now what? I was wondering where his point of view came from and how he coped with life.

I also got a bonus, being the personal life of H G Wells. I recall Wells' writing as being abstract political stuff mixed with science fiction, and the last time I tried to read one of his stories as an adult I found it intellectual and boring.

Of course, as is typical of writers and malcontents, both of these men were mired in their depressing view, and neither had any solution to what they found wrong with the world. If you see a big black thing out there, and you find it dangerous or you don't like it, then I would think you get out from under it, and move on with your life. These authors did not. Susan Hertog showed me why.

As for Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, they are intellectuals wallowing in their own world view, burning energy on everything except figuring out how to enjoy what life has to offer. Even the author is your typical intellectual, constantly imposing her own opinions in between excerpts from letters and telling the story. By about half way through the book I was feeling annoyed, and realized that her comments from on high were disruptive, because I had to mentally delete them so that I could interpret the material for myself. But she insists on adding her views, because as an intellectual, of course, her opinion is important, at least to her.

I got a lot more out of this book than I anticipated.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jaylia3 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A dual biography was an inspired but not completely successful choice for this book on Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, two talented, fascinating and flawed women who lived and wrote in the early and middle part of the last century. On the plus side, British Rebecca and American Dorothy were longtime friends, and in many ways their lives of ran parallel. Both had broken homes as children, Dorothy because of her mother's death and Rebecca because of her father's desertion, both wrote articles and books analyzing the world situation in the time surrounding the world wars, both had sons by famous men, Rebecca had an affair with H.G. Wells when she was very young and Dorothy married Noble Prize winning author Sinclair Lewis, and both women had severely strained relationships with those sons, in part because as early career women they had little idea and no models for balancing career, love and family. I was moved and intrigued by Dangerous Ambition, and it sent me on a quest for other books by and about her subjects, but covering two women meant that the author had to go back and forth in time which was sometimes befuddled the narrative. Also there is a little more speculation than I feel comfortable with; "One would imagine . . .," and similar phrasings are not uncommon, and they proceed conjectures about circumstances or inner thoughts that the author must have no documentation for. Still, on the whole I greatly enjoyed the unique perspective of this book about two intelligent, driven, influential women that I had known almost nothing about.
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