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Publishers WeeklyThough informative, this volume profiling famous figures were born out-of-wedlock is an example of hodge-podge history at its most head-scratching; tackling the entire length of Anglo-Saxon history, it's understandable that some well-known bastards won't make the cut, but why include Alexander Hamilton and not Thomas Paine? Why Eva Peron, but not Confucius? Why Billie Holiday, but not Edith Piaf? Among those he does cover, beginning with William the Conqueror and ending with Fidel Castro, Fiorillo labors unconvincingly to make illegitimacy a meaningful part of their stories (on da Vinci: "It is unlikely his achievements would have been so spectacular if he weren't trying to overcome the stigma caused by being a bastard"). Human psychology isn't so clean cut as Fiorillo would like to imagine: subjects like Alexandre Dumas and Jack London enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence with single parents; Billie Holiday and Alexander Hamilton were haunted more by poverty than by illegitimacy; and Queen Elizabeth I was beloved by her father, mother and stepmothers all (and, as her parents had been married when she was born, doesn't actually qualify as a bastard). A handsome design doesn't make up for clumsy writing, a narrow scope and some questionable editorial decisions. 125 color photos.
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