Joan Larsen’s Book Reviews: An Inside Look – Remarkable Women of Our Time

Posted on October 15, 2014

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By Joan Larsen

 

For those of us who are “middle-aged” or a tiny bit above, reading books is in our blood. Some of us have libraries of books we cannot part with. You can count me as one of them. I am counting on heaven as being a library in fact . . . my ultimate dream.

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Two books – just two – have come out this month – about some of the most successful women of our time. They are of the “can’t put down” kind . . . so be prepared to be up past midnight.

For so many women, our first introduction to websites almost totally devoted to women — women looking for a far more stimulating world with others like us — came in 2008 when wowOwow.com came into being. Headed by easily recognizable women of our time, it was a heady introduction to the digital world. (It all ended in 2013).

Dear Margo – – the famed Margo Howard – was there, filling her column with – -what else, advice on all things personal – and our own comments were published as well. Margo became part of our world each day – a “friend” from afar, part of our group.

Well, Margo is going to kill me when I say this but when a woman becomes 70, more often than not, all the secrets she has held about herself, secrets that she always knew would blow us away, want to find their way into print. Her new memoir is brand new, absolutely amazing in its detail of a woman who has had a private life with a WOW factor that few of us that age could equal. Should I be embarrassed to say that I could not put it down?

The upcoming best seller about the top women reporting the news – Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, and Christiane Amanpour – probes beneath the public image, totally pulling the reader in, with the stories within of each of these remarkable women. Climbing the ladder to the heights as these women have – leaving some (sometimes, many) bodies along the way – will make you look at the three in a far different way from now on.  Envy? I don’t think so.  Fascination? At times, I was blown away. Not to be missed.

The book: The News Sorority – the unauthorized, exhaustively researched book by Sheila Walker, taking us back to the very beginnings of the three women – Couric, Sawyer, and Amanpour, determined, driven, to be the top in network news. “They’ve prevailed for so long because they had to be better,”says Walker.

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DianeSawyer

Diane Sawyer

Raised in Kentucky, the oldest of the three – Diane Sawyer would eventually catapult into being the first female on-air correspondent for 60 Minutes and bringing us the heartbreaking specials on site for ABC World News Tonight.

Katie Couric, always looking and acting like the girl-next-door, privately had the drive and private ambition that moved her along to become co-host of the Today show in 1991. But we hear of the” behind the scenes competitive fervor” and sheer guts and savvy that then enabled her to inherit the mantle of Walter Cronkite at CBS Evening News, as the first woman EVER to anchor a prestigious nighttime network news program.

CouricWhat will keep you reading – and reading – is what insiders call “the dish”, the pretty much hidden back story of how Katie and Diane Sawyer made it to the top. The wheeling and dealing, the pressures put by the rich and famous people they knew, the one-upping between the two women at times for on-site coverage that would improve their images further, the words said – true or not – but believed, gives us a whole other dimension to the two women we see on the TV screen.

Mind-boggling, eye-opening, and extraordinarily well researched, keeping us reading into the midnight hours, we end up looking at the two women in a whole different light.

Christiane Amanpour

Christiane Amanpour

However, the third member of the “Sorority”, Christiane Amanpour, to me, is the star. The daughter of a British Catholic mother and Iranian Muslim father made a virtue of her outsider status. She joined the fledging CNN on the bottom rung of that ladder and then became its “face”, rising to global prominence. Amanpour has always seemed the most comfortable in war zones, seemingly fearless as her companions are shot away beside her, interviewing despots and presidents with skill and expertise that overrides the competition. She has the presence to make us stop when she speaks, really listen — as she is learned and right on the battle lines. We find that she has had quite a love life as well, a marriage that lasted, and a child few know about. As far as I know that has never been played up. . . and those who know her well say that there is little to “dish” on, unlike her other sorority members.

My own opinion: she comes out smelling like a rose. A woman to be in awe of and admired.

But the three women’s ascendance to the highest ranks of the media elite show us that each of them has the compelling desire to report the news. And then, of course, there was the competitive drive to rise to the very top – and break the “glass ceiling”. Their individual struggles to get up that ladder – their guts, their fervor, and what they did to get there – is the “glue” that will keep you reading.

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Margo Howard (photo:  Harlequin Books)

Margo Howard (photo: Harlequin Books)

Now to Margo’s Eat, Drink, and Remarry – Confessions of a Serial Wife. I know . . . there were moments – after reading the title – when I wondered if it was going to have – well – SUBSTANCE. And then, I could not put the book down. Reading it was like sitting down with a good friend – the kind of friend who tells it like it is and was: the most personal of lives over a period of 40 years. I had had no idea that lovely Margo Howard had had FOUR husbands and a wide (and wild) scattering of love affairs to tide her over between marriages. . . before she finally got it right with #4. But readers will find that they too have moments of introspection as well, looking back at what our youthful experience in life and in love truly was.

Her second husband, a funeral director, was basically dead on arrival. But her third – to actor Ken Howard – made her social circles swell to the likes of Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty and others – and her stories of that time added a surprisingly fascinating element.

Margo’s ability to chronicle her multiple marriages, finding humor in hardship, lessons learned, but ending with few regrets and so much learned, left me reading to the very end in the wee hours of the night.

As Margo – with no holds barred – looks back with wit and humor at her life, she reveals lessons to the readers learned from the husbands and lovers. In the end, as some of us know, finally understanding love — as well as really knowing the people in your life well, comes only when you yourself are ready. And it is possible – even later in life – to start over and get things just right.

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take,

relationships we were afraid to have and the decisions

we waited too long to make.

– Anonymous

 

JoanAvatarWriter Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”

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