It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History is a history of heartbreak - replete with beheadings, uprisings, creepy sex dolls, and celebrity gossip - and its disastrously bad consequences throughout time. Spanning eras and cultures from ancient Rome to medieval England to 1950s Hollywood, Jennifer Wright's It Ended Badly guides you through the worst of the worst in historically bad breakups. In the throes of heartbreak, Emperor Nero had just about everyone he ever loved - from his old tutor to most of his friends - put to death. Oscar Wilde's lover, whom he went to jail for, abandoned him when faced with being cut off financially from his wealthy family and wrote several self-serving books denying the entire affair. And poor volatile Caroline Lamb sent Lord Byron one hell of a torch letter and enclosed a bloody lock of her own pubic hair. Your obsessive social media stalking of your ex isn't looking so bad now, is it?
With a wry wit and considerable empathy, Wright digs deep into the archives to bring these 13 terrible breakups to life. She educates, entertains, and really puts your own bad breakup conduct into perspective. It Ended Badly is for anyone who's ever loved and lost and maybe sent one too many ill-considered late-night emails to their ex, reminding us that no matter how badly we've behaved, no one is as bad as Henry VIII.
From the eunuch forced up to cross dress as the Roman empress (who'd just been executed) through Henry II jailing Eleanor of Aquitaine to the knife in the back that broke Oscar Wilde's heart--whether he ever admitted it or not--this book was great listening. Kind of "themed history" where it was easy to see, regardless of how our hearts are broken, we are certainly not alone and definitely not the worst case ever. (Porus, the eunuch gets my vote--geez!) Easy listen; ideal for a stopping and starting listen like for long commutes. Will definitely look for more by Jennifer Wright. Recommend.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
I heartily disagree with this book's bad reviews.
The narrator's voice was quirky but "totally" right for the tone of the book. History served up for fun and consolation with a delicious mix of ancient fact and current idiom to drive home the fact that love hasn't changed much over the years and the rich and famous have always made good copy.
It just goes to show--bad reviews may be robbing you of something uniquely wonderful to your particular sensibilities. Ever loaned a a book you just loved to a friend and they couldn't get through the first chapter? Okay then.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
What could Jennifer Wright have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
She should have done better research and worried less about forcing jokes into each paragraph than letting the humor come where it would naturally.
Any additional comments?
Jennifer Wright has taken an interesting premise and mostly squandered it. In every respect, this book misses wonderful opportunities and the result is a painfully superficial read. Wright has identified thirteen relationships in history that have ended (calling them all breakups is kind of misleading) and discussed what happened. Where each of these stories through history (reaching back into ancient Rome and coming all the way up into 1960s Hollywood) could have offered an interesting vantage point into the times and the concept of love, Wright only does a superficial amount of research and explanation. In fact, she often seems to have opted to put forth the most salacious version of events, or whatever version fits into the moral or lesson she has decided to highlight. She glosses over facts and nuance, and her historical perspective is uncritical and shallow.
The entire book is bogged down in her effort to be funny. Perhaps she was shooting for a Mary Roach tone, where the factual synthesis is buoyed by levity. But unlike a Mary Roach (who typically interjects humor where it fits and doesn't belabor the jokes if they don't flow with the narrative), Wright's humor is forced and her asides (which seem to be delivered with a wink) invite a grimace from readers. I love a funny story or a humorous point, but Wright seems to mistake her popular history book for a stand-up venue. Moreover, where Roach's books are characterized by thorough research and cogent explanations, Wright's lack of historical basis makes the humor appear to be the point of the book.
Finally, Wright has decided to end each chapter with decidedly unoriginal relationship advice (all of which is par for the course in self-help books or online articles). In more than one instance, her quips about modern day life are tone deaf or patently false (in one chapter, she suggests that no one in modern times needs to hide their sexual orientation, in another she states than anyone who enjoys the company of animals over people must have suffered some horrid abuse). Moreover, some of the "advice" she appends to the end of a chapter feels untethered to what came before, merely shoe-horned in.
I finished the book hugely disappointed with the quality of the research, the delivery, and the writing. Wright feels like an author who is more appropriate for shorter mediums (articles, blogs) and not ready for the heft of a book length treatment.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
I think the divergence in reader reviews reflects the readers' expectations going in. This is a fun, lightly recounted set of stories about disastrous romantic liaisons. Most people I know don't even fully understand their own breakups, nor do the people closest to them agree about what went down. Accordingly, it's silly to expect a real history lesson here, or for book like this to dig deep into the facts. Not all of the jokes land, but it's amusing on the whole. And I appreciate the author's frequent admissions that no one really knows what happened. Enjoy the stories for what they are and learn a little history along the way. And be reminded that love makes us all a tad crazy sometimes.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about It Ended Badly?
The part about how Anne Boleyn reacted to a "breakup." Never thought about it this way before until the author laid it out. Anne Boleyn gets the Nobel Prize in accepting a breakup with grace. She should be remembered in history better than she is for that alone.
What other book might you compare It Ended Badly to and why?
I Don't Care About Your Band. Another delightful collection of breakup stories.
What about Hillary Huber’s performance did you like?
The snark comes across in delightful manner. There was enough snark in the author's original wording to come across in a robot voice, but the narrator really made it come alive.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
"Don't cry, Sugar--no man is worth it."--Some Like it Hot
Any additional comments?
Love history AND snarky dating/relationship advice books. What a perfect combination!
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
I wanted to like this book, but the never ending stream of historical tangents and sassy quips drained each story's momentum. Lighthearted jokes about truly dark human behavior didn't work for me. The narrator was good except the microphone made her "S" sounds annoyingly sharp. Had to turn down treble EQ on car stereo.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
What does Hillary Huber bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Hillary Hubert was perfect. I felt like I was listening to a close friend tell me juicy gossip over coffee.
Any additional comments?
Jennifer Wright is an amazing author. Everything I have read/listened to of hers is interesting, thought-provoking, entertaining, FUNNY, and educational. I wish I could go back in time and have her write all of my high school history books. History is SCARY, FUNNY, ABSURD and yet most history books are SO BORING. Wright makes history (albeit history revolving around insane love stories) human, relatable and interesting.
I fear what people might think of me if they read my collection of book reviews given that I consistently find books about serial killers and violence “entertaining”. I don’t kill people and I like to believe that I am a good husband - but I thoroughly enjoy reading about other people who do not live up to the same standards, and this book features a nice collection of seriously nonconforming people, romantically speaking.
This book is meant to be entertaining, however. Jennifer Wright (who has instantly become one of my favorite authors) writes about a number of break ups that stood out for one reason or another. The stories span several historical epochs, from the Roman empire up until modern times.
For example, the first chapter is about Nero. Nero was, without doubt, the most insane ruler Rome have ever seen, and his personal romances were similarly twisted. I would actually disagree with the author when she claims that Norman Mailer (Chapter 12) is the worst breaker-upper in the book. I would say that Nero was worse, although admittedly, he lived in crazier times. Briefly, Nero jumped on his lover’s stomach when she was eight months pregnant, killing her (and the child). He appears to have regretted this act of madness because next, he married a prepubescent boy who looked like his dead girlfriend, despite that homosexuality was not generally accepted in Rome. In his spare time, Nero’s fetishes included pretending to be a caged, wild animal. When he was let loose he would attack the private parts of people who had been tied up around the cage.
In each of the featured stories a relationship ends – sometimes because one partner killed the other – and then we get to read about what happened next. The breakups elicit some pretty cracked reactions such as ordering a sex doll that looks like your ex and taking her, it, for dinner with friends. Or, there is the guy who just started pretending his wife was a ghost. Jennifer offers running commentary and modern real-life analogies that spice up the stories.
All in all, this is a highly entertaining book. The book will give you a few history lessons that will make most history teachers look uninteresting in comparison. The book will also give you some top-notch tidbits about breakups that you can share at parties or with friends in heartbreak. The book gives you this and a lot more in a truly entertaining and well-written package. Highly recommended!
It's amusingly told, but had I known how wildly historically inaccurate it was, I most likely would not have purchased it. If you are unconcerned with historical accuracy, and enjoy salacious stories, you'll probably enjoy it.
This nonfiction book was funny, well-researched, detailed, and wonderful overall. I listened to this as I drove on a long trip, and it made the drive fun and relaxing. I did not even mind traffic jams! I hope Jennifer Wright writes many more books--her tone is great, as are her topics--and Hillary Huber did a fantastic job of capturing the clever and intelligent tone of the book.