February 16, 2017
Goodreads Rating : 3.75/5
Review: The first time I ever heard Annie Zaidi speak dates back to my post grad days when she has a special session with us filled with her page-3-kinda-like-ermygod stories. As expected, massive eye rolling happened. Fast forward 3 years later, I see her again, this time with Mandy Ord at JLF 2015. More eye-rolling and subtle scoffing, until she and Mandy spoke about alternate endings to iconic tales in our culture, such as the love saga of Salim and Anarkali. I was like a dog who picked up a new scent. That one story and the epic cliffhanger was sufficient enough to itch my mind and click ‘add to cart’ on Amazon.
Read more Eat The Sky, Drink The Ocean – a review
February 9, 2017
How You Might Know Me is a result of years of creative writing workshops with women from the UK’s growing sex industry and Sabrina Mahfouz’s own experiences of working in strip-clubs. It is told through four characters: Sylvia, Tali, Sharifa and Darina, who each use the poetic form to tell their stories, be it through a traditional verse, or a more contemporary, free verse with punchy lines.
The collection examines “taboos, surprising sexual encounters, the politics of desire, the vastly differing viewpoints on sex work and most prominently, the status of women’s equality in the UK today.” What the collection also is, is inclusive and representative of women from different backgrounds and cultures.
Read more Review: How You Might Know Me by Sabrina Mahfouz
February 1, 2017
“I am here, reading with you. I am reading this over your shoulder. I make your home home, I’m the Braille on your wallpaper that only your fingers can read–I tell you where you are. Don’t turn to look at me. I am only tangible when you don’t look.”- The house in Helen Oyeyemi’s “White is For Witching”
Read more White is for Witching- Helen Oyeyemi
October 27, 2016
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 21.09.16
“Most important the figure of the witch…in this volume is placed at the center-stage, as the embodiment of a world of female subjects that capitalism had to destroy; the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeha woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt.” (p.1)
I have just finished reading this fascinating and excellent work.
I am avid enthusiast of the need for the reclaiming of women’s history and the necessity to document and learn about women’s past roles in our history. So it was with excitement that I came across this important work.
Federici gave me an interesting perspective on women’s history as she claims that it is not just about reclaiming women’s hidden history but understanding how women are often at the centre of historical events but their role has been diminished by historical accounts.
Read more Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – a review at Mairi Voice
September 16, 2016
A Ripple from the Storm by Doris Lessing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The third book in Martha Quest’s story is best read after the foregoing instalments. Here there is a shift in subject matter; previously Martha’s political activities were not a dominant part of her life, and she engaged in them alongside other preoccupations. Here all the action is political activity, and the personal lives of the characters are subsumed in it rather than the reverse. The energies and characters of Martha and everyone else is enmeshed in a political epic taking place at all scales, from international to intimate.
While Lessing sometimes seems to ridicule the machinations and dogma of political groups or criticise them scathingly, she effectively demonstrates that every level of existence has a political dimension, which is often overlooked by the particular ideological framings at work among the participants. Greek activist Athen’s attempts to communicate the all-embracing political framework of Marxism to ingenue Maisie, whose sympathethic indolence might be meant to represent an easily influenced reader, involve humanising politics, softening ideology into an integrated (even living) body of varyingly flexible ethical positions. This humanistic approach is the opposite of ideologue Anton’s rigid and dogmatic intellectualism. I remembered reading about dry stone walls and why they are stronger than bricks and mortar: the stones flex with the moving earth, and each tiny shift wedges them more tightly together. Anton’s Marxism is accordingly much more robust than Anton’s.
Read more Thistledown of History by @RoseAnnaStar
September 6, 2016
Cross-posted from: Madam J Mo
Originally published: 19.06.16
There are few greater literary treats than the bi-annual publication of a few new books from the wonderful Persephone Books in London. And this re-issue of the 1914 novel A Lady And Her Husband by Amber Reeves is, of course, no disappointment.
Amber Reeves had a fascinating life story, not least of all because she was the muse for the character Ann Veronica in HG Wells’ 1909 suffragette novel of the same name. (I wrote about Ann Veronica here back in February 2012.) Reeves and Wells had had an affair in which both seemed to inspire the other in equal measure, and many say that A Lady And Her Husband is Reeves’ response to Ann Veronica. Having read both, it is interesting to be able to compare them.
Read more A Lady & Her Husband – Amber Reeves by Madam J Mo
August 4, 2016
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 13.03.16
I have just finished reading this harrowing and powerful novel.
Set in the near future it is about a group of young women who are abducted and imprisoned in an outback facility somewhere in Australia. They are abducted by a corporation – to be punished, to be silenced because they have dared to expose their sexual exploitation at the hands of powerful men.
They include a victim of a football-buddy pack rape; another is a “lover” of a high-profile politician; a woman assaulted whilst partying on a cruise ship, and a woman, a contestant on a TV reality show who is singled out for sex by the producer of the show.
Read more Charlotte Wood ‘The Natural Way of Things’ at Mairi Voice
June 30, 2016
Cross-posted from: HerStory
Originally published: 19.02.16
I wrote this review a year or so ago when I was doing my MA Dissertation and I forgot about it until now. Why publish it now? Because I recently read Deborah Kay Davies’ Reasons She Goes to the Woods (2014), which is another fantastic novel about a young girl, coming of age, and mental health, to put it elementarily, and I felt that the two books had some themes in common. This is not to say that they are similar. They are not. I repeat: they are not similar. But they have “unconventional” layout and writing style and both play with the concept of sibling relationships amongst other things. So, I’m publishing it again with some revisions, because this book is definitely worth raving about. Apologies in advance for the informal tone of this review – I don’t usually do this, but a year ago I was a newbie to book reviews and still find this a difficult book to review.
Read more A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride – a review by @Durre_Shahwar
May 11, 2016
“It’s not so easy writing about nothing.”
So starts Patti Smith’s glorious homage to the temperamental nature of the creative life. M Train is one of those books that not only lives up to the unanimous praise of reviewers, it exceeds it. It’s a book that envelops you in an absorbing journey through the “the twisting track of the mind’s convolutions”, as inimitably described by Smith herself. Unrestrained in the rawness of her reflections, Smith is a writer so incisive that you read her words with a sense of wonder and envy.
M Train is the latest book to join my beloved collection of works by women through the ages. As with all writers I admire, there’s the vain hope that through some mysterious process of literary osmosis, I might emulate a speck of their talent and output. A grandiose delusion indeed but in the words of another talented storyteller I’ve recently been binge-reading, Brene Brown, “it’s like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really arrive but we certainly know that we’re heading in the right direction”.
Read more Women & writing: A celebration of true greatness by @AliyaMughal1
January 29, 2016
Privilege is relative, isn’t it. As long as there is someone wealthier, smarter or better-off than you, then it’s hard to consider yourself privileged. Even when you most certainly are.
English biographer Antonia Fraser DBE is something of a paragon. Her biographies are best sellers (Mary Queen of Scots) that get made into movies by the hollywood elite (Marie Antoinette). The several I have read are engaging, impeccably researched and – on occasion and appropriately – laugh out loud funny (Warrior Queens).
In her ‘Memoir of Growing Up’ Fraser, now in her eighties, is at pains to describe what an ordinary girl she was, and how middle-class her upbringing. This despite being the granddaughter of an Earl and, on her mother’s side, a wealthy Harley Street medico. She grew up in North Oxford (not as well-to-do, Fraser assures us, as South Oxford) where her father was a don and, later, a Labour minister in England’s post-WWII government.
Read more My History by Antonia Fraser – Book Review
January 23, 2016
http://www.aroomofourown.org/wp-admin/post-new.phpI’ve always loved reading ghost stories at this time of year. Nothing else seems to hit quite the same spot the wind is roaring like a lost soul outside and the rain is battering against the windows in truly biblical fashion. As the nights draw in there’s always that primeval part of us that draws closer to the fire but is mindful of the fury outside. This is something that writers have always understood and those writing before homes were lit with the flick of a switch understood it by far the best. My favourite ghost stories always seem to date from the mid-19th to early 20th century, when the gothic imagination was at its height. I grew up reading M.R. James and E.F. Benson, first discovered in the volumes that made up part of my dad’s Everyman Library – hundreds of uniform cloth covered books with matching paper jackets that lived in special glass fronted bookcases in the dining room.
Read more Who’s afraid of the dark by Abigail Rieley
January 21, 2016
I’ve never really read YA, not even when I was a YA myself. Except A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian, proving there is always an exception to any rule.
So it was a real treat for my first proper YA experience to be the fantastic Beautiful Broken Things by my very clever friend Sara Barnard, published by Macmillan.
There’s the disclosure: Sara is a friend of mine but I would be writing the following glowing review whether I knew her or not. Because this book merits it.
The novel is told in the voice of Caddy, a teenager living in Brighton. Like most teens, she’s concerned with schoolwork, exams, parents and, of course, boys. But, in a refreshing twist from a lot of fiction aimed at teenage girls, boys are not the primary pre-occupation of this book. Female friendship is.
Caddy’s best friend is Rosie. Although they don’t attend the same school, the pair are inseparable – doing everything together and calling or texting each other every evening to update on the day’s events. However, when the beautiful, cool and mysterious Suzanne starts at Rosie’s school, Caddy is worried that their close bond is under threat.
Read more Beautiful Broken Things – A review by Sara Barnard (@sianushka)
January 4, 2016
In 1855 the well-to-do Finch family falls on hard times and is forced live and farm in the Coorong, on the remote southeast coast of South Australia. Cue struggles with the landscape and clashes with the local Ngarrindjeri people. But first-time novelist Lucy Treloar subverts the typical white Australian pioneer story in interesting and complex ways. Nothing in this fascinating and beautifully written story turns out as expected.
Papa Finch is an entrepreneur always eyeing off the next big opportunity but the family’s ramshackle homestead on the Coorong is a blow to everyone’s pride. His four teenage boys are forced to forfeit their education to work on the run. Mama, grieving for two younger children who died just before the family left Adelaide, is not quite herself and the responsibility for running the household falls to the eldest daughter, fifteen year old Hettie.
Read more Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar
December 31, 2015
Cross-posted from: Madam J-Mo
Originally published: 25.11.15
Persephone Book No 115 is the real-life diary of Parisian Jewish journalist Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar written during the final weeks of World War Two while her husband André was imprisoned by the Nazis.
Betraying her experiences as a writer, Maman, What Are We Called Now? is a beautifully constructed series of heartbreakingly sad snapshots into the terrifying, traumatic and chaotic existence for those left behind by the war, desperate for news of their stolen loved ones.
Read more ‘Maman, What Are We Called Now?’ by Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar
December 25, 2015
I’ve always loved reading ghost stories at this time of year. Nothing else seems to hit quite the same spot the wind is roaring like a lost soul outside and the rain is battering against the windows in truly biblical fashion. As the nights draw in there’s always that primeval part of us that draws closer to the fire but is mindful of the fury outside. This is something that writers have always understood and those writing before homes were lit with the flick of a switch understood it by far the best. My favourite ghost stories always seem to date from the mid-19th to early 20th century, when the gothic imagination was at its height. I grew up reading M.R. James and E.F. Benson, first discovered in the volumes that made up part of my dad’s Everyman Library – hundreds of uniform cloth covered books with matching paper jackets that lived in special glass fronted bookcases in the dining room.
Read more Who’s Afraid of the Dark
October 10, 2015
I read this book because my maternal grandmother was a Land Girl, although I don’t know as much as I’d like to about what she did. Like many of the women who volunteered to literally help feed the war effort, she came from a working class urban background and left school at fourteen. Most of these young women were working before they entered the Womens Land Army, in domestic service, in factories, as waitresses, as shop clerks. Tyrer often highlights how the WLA was structured on class lines, with a small middle/upper class administrative staff, and thousands (87,000 at its peak in 1943) of working class members. Farming was seen and paid as unskilled work, and Tyrer points out that the efforts of the WLA’s head Lady Denman to improve pay and conditions for members helped all agricultural workers.
Read more A Biography of the WLA: They Fought in the Fields by @RoseAnnaStar
September 24, 2015
Attachment parenting, mommy blogging, hipster homemakers and urban homesteaders…Delilah Campbell reads a book about the new domesticity.
Emily Matchar, Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity (Simon & Schuster, 2013).
Back in 2001, I wrote an article for T&S about the ‘new domesticity’– a sudden revival of popular interest in the art of keeping house. Knitting was back in vogue, and cleaning was the subject of a popular reality TV show. Nigella Lawson published a book entitled How To Be a Domestic Goddess, and a rash of glossy magazine articles featured women who had given up their high-powered careers to concentrate on full-time homemaking.
Thirteen years later, it’s clear that this was not just a passing fad. Cath Kidston, the queen of retro household accessories, is a global brand; the Great British Bake-Off is a national institution. University students have formed branches of the Women’s Institute. And the new domesticity is also big on the other side of the Atlantic, where according to Emily Matchar, the return of the full-time housewife is a genuine trend. Her book Homeward Bound is an attempt to investigate what’s behind this phenomenon, and to ask what it might tell us about the times in which we live. She thinks it has a lot to tell us: ‘Our current collective nostalgia and domesticity-mania’, she argues, ‘speak to deep cultural longings and a profound shift in the way Americans view life’ (4).
Read more A Sphere of One’s Own
September 23, 2015
*Content Warning- Pedophilia*
I’ve recently had the misfortune of reading a particularly bad post-modernist book entitled Gaga Feminism. The author is Judith Jack Halberstam who can be reached on twitter at
Halberstam comes from a queer theory background and uses this framework throughout the book. Within the first few pages Susan Faludi, author of the insightful book Backlash, is bashed for not incorporating the latest female-erasing queer theory analyses into her projects.
Within the first fifteen pages, however, we see an incredibly worrying passage. Halberstam recommends civil libertarian Judith Levine’s (twitter here) “brave and controversial” book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex. From wikipedia:
Read more gaga feminism by @smashesthep
September 12, 2015
Christine Stark has been a role model of mine since 2004. That was the year she co-edited Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography, which immediately soared up my book chart and remains a Berg top five today.
Not For Sale contains my favorite essay on prostitution, but Stark’s direct confrontation with so-called ‘sex radicals’ in the essay “Girls to Boyz: Sex radical women promoting prostitution and pornography” has the most forthright chutzpah of the collection. My admiration for her anti-pornstitution work led me to take special note of her various creative works released through radical feminist and artistic media.
Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation is Stark’s debut novel and it’s a doozy. The freestyle narrative announces itself on the first page through two fairy tales as understood by a small child. Stark plays with linguistic forms to translate the thoughts in a child’s mind, and it’s a testament to her skill that the unconventional style comes off much more genuine than parlor tricky. The punctuation and odd sentence breaks lend a breathless air and the cadence is tricky to catch at first, but much like watching a Scottish film, the initial confusion of familiar words in an unfamiliar dialect soon resolves and you’re hooked into the storyteller’s groove.
Read more Christine Stark’s ‘Nickels’ – a tale of association
September 4, 2015
From some scant archival details – and a haunting mug shot – Eleanor Limprecht has created a compelling and powerful work of historical fiction.
In 1909, Sydney woman Rebecca Sinclair was convicted of manslaughter. A mother of three had sought an abortion from Sinclair, and died as a result. Sinclair, in her twenties, was sentenced to three years hard labour at the Long Bay Women’s Reformatory. Six months later she gave birth to a daughter.
The story begins with that birth.
Rebecca hears nurses’ heels, rustling skirts, the cut glass voice of the doctor. In this long room washed with daylight there are nine other women with her, each of them preparing to give birth. This is the Lady Renwick Ward, though there are few ladies here. The patients are all poor, for the hospital is run by the Benevolent Society. There are women on the ward who are married and many who are not. Some who are having their first and some who insist this will be their last. Still, she is the one they all speak of when they think she cannot hear. She is the only one chained to the bed.
Read more Long Bay by Eleanor Limprecht