The Girl Booker

The Girl Booker

Friday, April 25, 2014

Overwhelmed by Overwhelmed

I am not quite sure how to go about describing what it is like to read a book you have been waiting a long time to read even though you weren’t sure whether or not it existed. It is a fantastic experience. Every page feels packed with meaning and import. Overwhelemed by Brigid Schulte was just such a book for me and I loved EVERY GODDAMN PAGE. Perhaps if you imagine some firework- and people cheering excitedly-type gifs about here you will get a feel for how awesome this book was.

So what is the book actually about? It is a book about feminism in action. And I don’t mean it’s a debate about whether or not lipstick and high heels are pro- or anti- woman. It is about the home, the workplace, childcare, quality of life. 

Overwhelemed is the answer to a big and complicated question: Can women have it all? The answer has to begin with another question, namely, “Can men have it all?” Women need to have equal responsibilities in the workplace, just as men need to have equal responsibilities in the home. This book is about how everyone needs to change their expectations, their attitudes and their behaviours for this to be achieved. Shulte address the prejudices against men (namely, that they are expected to be emotionless breadwinners) as well as against women (who many still expect to be nothing more than walking, talking extensions of a nurturing nipple). Without looking at the whole picture, which includes both men and women, we are never going to arrive at a full answer to the problem.

Despite the very urgent and important nature of this book, I can honestly say that it was a joy to read. It was not depressing or bogged down in dense prose, it was everyday and down to earth and chatty and honest. It was full of hope and it has inspired me to be excited about life. It discussed problems and solutions. Solutions which feel totally achievable. Overwhelmed is one of the most life-changing books I think I will ever have the pleasure to read, and I genuinely hope plenty of others read it too.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vive la France!

It may look to the casual reader of this blog that I am obsessed with books about France. I’m not, I swear it! However, I am obsessed with books about food (and food itself), and it just so happens that two of the recent food books I stumbled upon happen to be about food in France. The latest is John Baxter’s The Perfect Meal. I am officially declaring Baxter the Clive James of books about life in France. He has written a male Baby Boomer’s amusing and fact-packed take on traditional French food and culture; it was a nice, easy book to read and kept me entertained.

There were plenty of really interesting historical facts peppered throughout the book, and I think that's what I enjoyed the most about it. Sometimes books about food can get a bit too gushy, but this was never a problem in The Perfect Meal, as the focus was more on the various quirks of history than the food itself. I didn't fall in love with this book the way I fell in love with Mastering The Art of French Eating, but I did enjoy reading it almost as much. 

Three roast oxen out of five.

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

If You've Been Married Four Times Does That Make You An Expert?

I have been very naughty lately. I have been concurrently reading several books, which meant that it took a very long time for me to finish even one of them. It's taken a while, but I have finally made it! First cab off the rank is Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood. It was one of those books where I got sucked right in to the story with impressive immediacy. Even reading in stops and starts on the train didn't alter the fact that about five words in and I was back there - Paris, Cuba, or wherever Hemingway and his current wife happened to be.

Wood draws four very distinct characters for each successive Mrs H, yet manages to make each of them sympathetic portrayals of a woman in love with a loveable cad. Although a work of fiction, she has used a lot of research to built up the story. I don't know a lot about Hemingway so I am not sure what a purist would think but I thought the book was riveting. Not really knowing the ending helped to make it a great read as well. I also rather liked the way some of the marriages made more sense in subsequent chapters; because there was a bit of distance to the depiction.

If this book were a drink it would be a strong, rum-based cocktail with a fancy lime garnish. It was seductive, cool and had a real bite to it.