It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright: Book Review

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It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History
Title: It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History

My Review:

I loved Jennifer Wright’s book, Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. I loved her humor in tackling a pretty grim subject. She brings the same humor to this examination of some spectacular break-ups.

She shines a light on the following couples: 1. Nero & Poppaea 2. Eleanor of Aquitaine & Henry II 3. Lucrezia Borgia & Giovanni Sforza 4. Henry VIII, Anny Boleyn, Catherine Howard 5. Anna Ivanovna 6. Timothy Dexter 7. Caroline Lamb & Lord Byron 8. John Ruskin & Effie Gray 9. Oscar Wilde & Lord Alfred Douglas 10. Edith Wharton & Morton Fullerton 11. Oskar Kokoschka & Alma Mahler 12. Normal Mailer & Adele Morales Mailer 13. Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth Taylor.

There are a few non-celebrities in the list and I am curious how they ended up in the book. I guess their break-ups were bad enough to save them from complete obscurity?

The book is funny but the author walks a very fine line between snark and being respectful of the fact that these were real people enduring real heartbreak. She crossed the line a time or two early on but it’s possible that I hadn’t quite settled in to her style yet. She was generally pretty sympathetic to the wronged party (Wilde, Boleyn, etc.) but she was merciless toward the transgressor.

Here are a few of my takeaways.

Celebrity relationships sensationally imploding is not new.

Humans are ingenious when it comes to finding ways to make each other miserable.

You have to reluctantly admire the sheer audacity of some people. I’m particularly thinking of Lucrezia Borgia standing before a panel of men (priests?) and swearing that she was a virgin while very obviously about eight months pregnant.

Thank goodness for divorce.

And finally, here are a couple of quotes that stood out to me.

“But then, in any era, the persecution of homosexuals is nonsensical. Anyone who reads the Great Commandment and comes away saying, ‘Gays will burn in hell’ has missed an essential message.”

And the author quotes this statement from the Buddha,

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

Highly recommended if you’re in the mood to take a diverting look at some catastrophic relationships.

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