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Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson: New Women in Search of Love and Power
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Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson: New Women in Search of Love and Power

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  110 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Born in the 1890s on opposite sides of the Atlantic, friends for more than forty years, Dorothy Thompson and Rebecca West lived strikingly parallel lives that placed them at the center of the social and historical upheavals of the twentieth century. In Dangerous Ambition, Susan Hertog chronicles the separate but intertwined journeys of these two remarkable women writers, w ...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jenny Brown
Aug 04, 2012 Jenny Brown rated it liked it
This is one of those biographies that leaves you quivering with contempt for its subjects.

Though this group biography is obviously the product of much labor and research, the author can't get out of her own way and mars her narration by continually telling us what we are supposed to think about her subjects rather than painting scenes and giving us the information we need to draw our own conclusions.

I'd read the Glendenning bio of Rebecca West, and loved The Fountain Overflows, one of West's n
Nov 14, 2014 Carol rated it did not like it
Reading this book was a strange experience.

I found a reference to Dorothy Thompson in my reading: the first woman to hold down a foreign news desk in the 1930s; a tremendously popular journalist, who, at the height of her fame, had a widely popular column and a radio program. I wanted to know more. I ordered this book from the library, glad to find a biography written by a woman; combining it with a biography of Rebecca West seemed like a bonus at the time, as she is another author that I'd hear
Richard Jespers
Nov 04, 2014 Richard Jespers rated it it was amazing
Both West and Thompson were born in the early 1890s, same as my grandmothers, but neither one of my grandmothers lived even a tenth of the excitement that these women did. Yet my grandmothers had something that perhaps these two women didn’t: men who loved them and stayed with them a life time. Rebecca West, British and Dorothy Thompson, American, were both writers and became fast friends. Early on West was married to H. G. Wells and gave birth to his son, but the marriage did not last. Though W ...more
May 29, 2012 JoLynn rated it it was amazing
I won this book through the Goodreads Fist Reads Program.

This book asks the question - Can one have everything? Everything being a satisfying career, fame, and a loving well-adjusted family? Well, the short answer for Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, two towering figures of the literary/political scene of the first half of the twentieth century was no.

This parallel biography of West and Thompson will be fascinating to readers interested in the lives of these two particular women. Both women h
May 08, 2013 Lesley marked it as gave-up
Okay, I might learn something new about Dorothy Thompson if I persisted with this book, in spite of the author's annoying narrative style and somewhat scattershot approach to the correct word (surely aspirant journos write 'on spec' not 'on space') but it's not giving me anything fresh about Rebbecca West, while I just cannot stand the emphasis on their turbulent sexual and romantic relationships with men rather than their work, the complete neglect (at least in West's case) of her many, many re ...more
I won this biography from First Reads and was really jazzed that I did because biographies and memoirs about/by interesting women are a favorite of mine. I have to admit that although I’d heard of both subjects, I really didn’t know anything about either woman. Susan Hertog relates the two women’s friendship and similar life trajectories to write this joint biography of two female writers who pushed the boundaries of twentieth century womanhood in their professional lives. Hertog juxtaposes West ...more
Valorie Hallinan
Apr 24, 2012 Valorie Hallinan rated it really liked it
I liked the book. However, the author's thinking was in some respects black and white regarding the motivations and personalities of Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, especially in terms of how their marriages and romantic attachments (choices and outcomes) were affected by difficult childhoods and troubled parents.
A lot of reference to Freud's theories. I may be misreading the author, but I detected a judgmental tone, as if to say, look at how foolish these women were to become involved with t
Aug 12, 2013 Elena rated it it was amazing
Dangerous Ambition by Susan Hertog is a dual biography of Dorothy Thompson and Rebecca West, two women writers, an American and a Briton, whose decades-long friendship supported each other through romantic and professional ups and downs. Many years ago I read and enjoyed Rebecca West's novel The Birds Fall Down; I picked up this book because of Rebecca although by the end of it I liked Dorothy better. Dorothy and Rebecca had much in common: they both experienced emotional deprivation in difficul ...more
Margie Cady
Mostly disappointed

While their were fascinating portions of this book, I had to force myself to finish it. There weren't enough links between Rebecca, Dorothy, and the historical times in which they lived. Instead, there was way too much personal drama, portraying these authors as narcissistic and bitter. Perhaps they were, but these tedious portrayals overshadowed their talents.
Aug 15, 2014 Peg rated it really liked it
Dorothy Thompson, an American and Rebecca West, English, are the subjects of this well researched dual biography. These two women were long time friends, prolific writers leading lives of influence, as well as heartache. Dorothy was married to novelist Sinclair Lewis and Rebecca was the lover of H. G. Wells, bearing him a child. Successful to varying degrees in their professional lives, both women had very difficult personal relationships in part based on their individual personalities and those ...more
Sep 25, 2015 Selena rated it did not like it
Dangerous Ambition, a dual biography written by Susan Hertog, examines the inner lives of Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson as they rise to world-wide fame. Though these women are to be held responsible for their behaviors and actions, Hertog explains that they should still have a chance to be understood. There is no doubt that the author has a way with words, but her false views of Christianity and lack of discretion have forced my hand to find a poor view of her book.

Hertog's false views of
May 04, 2015 Mary rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book, the subjects were compelling and interesting. I think they will always be Dorothy and Rebecca to me, two women who sacrificed ease of life to be great. Both are terribly flawed and terribly amazing and will probably be intertwined forever for me because of this poob.

However, structurally, this book was inept, it jumped the linear train, offered major moments as passing happenstance in one chapter to return to it as if it was a grand denouement in the next. It w
Agnes Mack
Nov 15, 2011 Agnes Mack rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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 enj
Oct 31, 2011 Jaylia3 rated it really liked it
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. For one thing, 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 ...more
Kate Lawrence
Feb 09, 2012 Kate Lawrence rated it really liked it
West and Thompson were internationally known and respected writers in the mid-20th century whose lives were similar, in that both dared to step outside the conventional roles for women at the time. Thompson was the first female head of a European news bureau and a political commentator whose columns were followed by prominent policymakers including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Sought after as a lecturer, her speaking fee in the 1940's was $7,000! West, author of 25 books, was a reporter at th ...more
Mar 01, 2012 Irina rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional book. It is well researched, very informative about not only the lives of Dorothy Thompson and Rebecca West, but also of the times. Ms. Hertog did an excellent job covering numerous aspects of both subjects' careers and various nuances of their complex personal relationships. It really felt like I am reading the complete story. The author relays the tough choices a woman had to make to have a successful career very well. In addition, the book reads easily and is very enjoy ...more
Nov 25, 2011 April rated it really liked it
Shelves: dual-biography
DANGEROUS AMBITION by Susan Hertog is an interesting dual biography of Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson. It spans from 1892 to 1964.Starting with the birth of Rebecca West(Cicely Fairfield) in 1892,Dorothy Thompson born in 1893 through their deaths,. Dorothy Thompson dies in 1961 at the age of 69 and Rebecca West dies in 1983 at age of 90.It is the story of their lives,struggles,disappointment, family, their courage, faith,love,power, political journalisn, their failed relationships,social conv ...more
Jen's Book Den
Jan 27, 2012 Jen's Book Den rated it really liked it
Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, New Women in Search of Love and Power by Susan Hertog is an exhaustive biography and account of the lives of these two women, who were also friends with lives that often times paralleled each other.

I did not know much about West and Thompson when I started reading this book, but was amazed at the significant role these women played in history as well as the literary figures that were amongst their circle of friends. I found it interesting th
Feb 26, 2014 Sylvia rated it it was ok
I plodded through 3/4 of this book, but simple couldn't finish it. It seems that these two women (and I kept confusing them, never remembering who was who and who was married to whom, etc.) kept repeating their lives. Maybe we all do, but mine is a bit more least to me. It was interesting to read about Europe during Hitler's rise to least a few people recognized what was happening. Would I recommend this book? Only to those who are into biographies no matter who poorl ...more
Sarah Mallett
Oct 06, 2015 Sarah Mallett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read.

Wow! What an interesting story about two different women in history. Highly recommend. Wonderfully written. Written in an easy to read story kind of way which really let you get to know the subjects personally.
Jul 20, 2014 Kate rated it liked it
I might come back to this one some day but right now cannot grasp this true story of two women journalists who are so full of themselves. I don't care about all the famous people they slept with!
Jan 30, 2016 Kuva rated it liked it
A very interesting book, but I think it spent too much time on their romantic entanglements and not enough on their careers, their lives and times, or on their friendship with each other, which drifts in and out of the book sort of erratically.
Jan 26, 2012 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Received this dual biography as a 'first read'. Well done. Hertog has extensively researched the lives of these two adventurous women, and the times in which they lived: 1900-1960. Inspiring to any readers with an interest in 20th century western history, literature, and women's struggle to be taken seriously. As successful as these two women were, their lives were not easy, especially when it came to the 'search for love'. I believe even young women of today will resonate with the 20th century ...more
Feb 25, 2012 Anna marked it as to-read
Shelves: stopped-reading
I won this as a goodreads giveaway. I started it a few weeks ago, set it aside and found I have not been compelled to pick it back up. While these are 2 fascinating women far ahead of the times, I found I was not being drawn into the history of their lives or their personal experiences. I read the first 60 pages, and doubt I will ever finish, thereby am not giving it a rating.
Dec 27, 2011 Asma rated it it was ok
it was a kind of long book. i did not enjoy it that much. the events get sometimes very confusing because there was so many flash backs and events inside events.
the strange thing is that i was thinking that Rebecca and Dorothy were close friends but suprisenly they weren't this left me wondering why would they be both in the same biography book
Noemi Proietti
Jun 12, 2014 Noemi Proietti rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Excellent book. It perfectly depicts a friendship that lasted for more than 40 years across two continents, between two great women who shared the same beliefs, who went through similar experiences and were regarded as powerful voices of their time. I loved this book!!!!
Jan 13, 2015 Natalie rated it liked it
This was interesting, but very long. I read it on my kindle, so I didn't realize just how long it was in the beginning. It seems to me it could have been condensed a bit, but it was a very interesting glimpse into that time in history and society.
Tina Lee
Aug 06, 2013 Tina Lee rated it liked it
I very much like both of these women so it made a combined comparative bio appealing. I don't necessarily buy the thesis, but the lives of these fascinating ladies make up for any "lessons" the book might want to teach you.
Feb 13, 2012 Linda rated it liked it
Not my favorite book. I found it tedious and way too long.
It does capture the trials and tribulations of women struggling for power and a voice in that era, but it did not really spark my interest and imagination.
Jan 11, 2014 Sandra rated it liked it
I would rather read Rebecca West's books rather than one person's interpretation of her personal life.
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