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
February 4, 2016
A recent issue of Private Eye published a spoof newspaper front page purportedly from the start of WWI, drawing parallels between the international conflict of that time and our own. Juxtaposed with this was an article about what a fabulous summer it was, full of ice-creams and donkey rides on the beach. Of course, the joke of this front page is that whilst we are sated with immediate sweet and simple pleasures we can ignore the horror to come. I found it funny and frightening.
I’ve thought of that spoof quite often during the past weeks of my son’s summer holiday, whilst eating ice-creams on the beach (no donkeys any more). Yet … my natural inclination to catastrophise means I am drawn to the news bulletins of the many, terrifying conflicts that have punctuated this summer. They seem to draw together in our collective consciousness to predicate a disaster of greater magnitude. There has been a shadow cast over the bright sunny beach, a shadow of conflicts reaching ever closer.
Read more Fictions of Conflict
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
https://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 Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things – A review by @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 23, 2015
I thought it was time for another look at real cases that have their echoes in classic films. Last time I wrote about lost Lon Chaney film London After Midnight and it’s connection to the rather tragic case of Julia Mangan, killed by the obviously disturbed Robert Williams. This time we’re sticking with a horror film but the story has more than a whiff of the supernatural – the link might be quite rather tenuous but I’m going with it. It’s a great film and the cases that echo through the story are fascinating ones.
Read more It’s in the trees…it’s coming…
October 22, 2015
Cross-posted from: feimineach
Originally published: 27.09.15
I’m THIS CLOSE to giving up on Frones completely because of its plot-point, titilation rape scenes (and I haven’t even got to all of *that* scene in the latest series). In the linked piece below, SARAH DITUM on the NEWSTATESMAN talks rape, gender disparity, and misogyny. If I’m honest, I think that she’s watched some of the rape scenes closer than I have for there is only so much I can bear. She points out, for example, that in *that* rape scene with Sansa (which I gather lasts for most of the episode), a lot of the focus is on Theon’s reaction, because the programme makers believe that a man’s reaction to rape is more important than a woman’s brutal experience of it.
Read more GAME OF THRONES, RAPE, AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS
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
August 29, 2015
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 28.04.15
ANROWS Public Lecture with Professor Liz Kelly CBE
On Friday 13 February 2015 Professor Liz Kelly CBE delivered a lecture in Adelaide on re-visiting the continuum of sexual violence in the 21st century.
I had the great privilege of attending this lecture by Liz Kelly earlier this year and I would highly recommend listening to this lecture.
She talks of her early work and research “Surviving Sexual Violence” (I would recommend the book too.)
Read more Re-visiting the continuum of sexual violence in the 21st century.
August 28, 2015
The Temple Of My Familiar by Alice Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Obenjomade, clean out your ears: THE WHITE MAN IS STILL HERE. Even when he leaves, he is not gone.”
“Obenjomade, cup your endearingly large ears: EVERYONE ALL OVER THE WORLD KNOWS EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT THE WHITE MAN. That’s the essential meaning of television. BUT THEY KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING ABOUT THEMSELVES.”
“If you tear out the tongue of another, you have a tongue in your hand for the rest of your life. You are responsible, therefore, for all that person might have said.”
Folk Memory, Matriarchy and Writing Back
Read more Inventing a Sacred, by @RoseAnnaStar
June 12, 2015
Finn Mackay’s new book is several things at once. It’s a brief history of British feminisms from the beginning of the ‘second wave’ to the present day (with contextualizing excursions to the US and mainland Europe); it’s an explanation of what radical feminism was and is (and wasn’t and isn’t); it’s a detailed look at the origins and development of Reclaim The Night (RTN) as a form of feminist protest; and it explores the attitudes and motivations of activists involved in RTN today. Though the book is published by an academic press, it is evidently written (in plain English rather than theory-speak) to be accessible to a wider feminist audience. As well as the standard bibliography of references, it includes a list of resources for readers who want to get involved in campaigning, and a section on how to organize a RTN march.
Read more Marching on at Trouble & Strife
June 8, 2015
Emer O’Toole is a Guardian writer, a university professor and a professional hirsute woman. And all of these factors combine in her debut book Girls Will Be Girls, which is a delving look into the world of what it is to dress up and be a woman these days.
Read more Emer O’Toole’s Girls will be girls
June 6, 2015
Cross-posted from: SmashtheP
Originally published: 31.01.14
Holly Grigg-Spall’s book Sweetening the Pill does an amazing job uncovering the harmful effects, questionable history, and medicalized misogyny of hormonal birth control (HBC). She points out that both the pharmaceutical industry and modern third wave feminism have downplayed the harms of HBC and have equated use of the pill with liberation. As she says,
Read more Sweeting the Pill by @smashthep