Review-ish: The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White

‘The more environments that say yes to feminist, female and other marginalised voices, the bolder those voices will become and the louder and clearer they will ring out into the wider world.’

Firstly, I have to thank Dai Brows and Anna for introducing me to The Guilty Feminist pod-cast in the first instance, and to my step-mum for buying me this book for Xmas. Nailed it. Pretty on-brand.

For those that are already fans of The Guilty Feminist in its pod-cast form, you will be pretty familiar with DFW’s style of writing and presenting, which is both warm and inviting. She has, along with Sofie Hagan and other incredible guests and guest hosts, made it ok to be a less-than perfect feminist, as long as you have good intentions. It’s been a breath of fresh air, and has brought much-needed lightness to what has become such a contentious issue.

Much of what is discussed in this book has been examined in great depth on the podcast and but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading it in a new form. It’s a really easy read, even when the subject matter isn’t, and is such an effective how-to guide for all humans, on how to be better humans, not just better feminists.

The important point that the podcast and the book raise, is how vital it is to learn and listen to those different from ourselves. Part of the guilty part of The Guilty Feminist is not always recognising where our privilege allows us to act in a way that isn’t respectful of the intersectionality of feminism. By reading and listening to The Guilty Feminist, and by hearing new voices and learning about the guests varied experiences, I feel confident to admit when I’ve messed up but also to always be open to learning.

I have a shelf full of books considered to be ‘must read feminist texts’ and as much as it pains me to admit it, I haven’t always gotten on all that well with them. This doesn’t mean that I don’t absolutely recognise their importance and the massive impact they often had but we will always need books like this that can cut through some of the noise and just celebrate being perfectly imperfect.

This really is a joy and can and should be read by everyone.

Feminist book recommendations always appreciated, just commend below!

Happy Sunday.

Kelly

Insole Court Book Club – March

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

A quiet book club this month, but no less interesting. As always, it was fascinating to hear what everyone connected to in this book, in particular, which characters/chapters stood out. One of the things we discussed was the authors choice to use different characters viewpoints throughout the novel, which was also reflected in Fingersmith, and a book that I am reading currently. Although Homegoing takes this one step further but adding in the new dimension of time.

Anyway, thoughts and comments below. Feel free to join in and let us know what you thought!

The difficulty of reading about the slave trade

Repercussions

Some read it one chapter at a time, so they could take a break and process

Others read in chunks

Following characters quite hard, even with the family tree

Some felt it spoilt the flow

Read like a collection of short stories

Some found the ending predictable

Sliding Doors / The Butterfly Effect

Educational and informative

Questioning history – fact / emotionally truthful / politically truthful

Important to not forget about Britain’s role in this part of history

Story shows a lot of nuance

Integration into new worlds without forgetting roots

Akua’s chapter is very hard to read – she bears the brunt of the family’s history

Water. Green

Some found the American characters relatable

Early chapters are about survival, tradition and ritual

Each generation is trying to connect to the past

Homegoing – all of them are looking back

No sense of oral history, the link is broken due to circumstances

History is traditionally written by the victors

All isolated

A snapshot

Is it important that the characters are all related?

Liked the way it was written

 

  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Our next book club meeting is Tuesday 30th April at 7pm in the Reading Room of Insole Court House, where we’ll be discussing Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

 

 

 

Brilliant Books Festival @ Insole Court – Short Story Book Club

The Ones Who Walk Away From the Omerlas by Ursula Le Guin.

Available to read online for free here or in various anthologies; including The Winds Twelve Quarters, first published in 1975.

I was really thrilled to play a small part during Insole Court’s very first Brilliant Books Festival, which celebrated literature for all ages, between the 2nd and 9th March 2019. They asked me to run a short story book club and gave me free-reign, which is brave of them. It really challenged me as although I appreciate short stories as an art form, I don’t read a whole lot of them myself. So I thought I would find something written by an author that I was familiar with.

My love of Ursula is no secret. See here for when I went to a Cardiff Book Talk discussion about her work. Omerla’s was ideal for many reasons; it was available for free online, it had depth and the themes were very in-keeping with other work of hers that I was familiar with.

The short story explores the moral conundrum of one person’s suffering vs the happiness of many. Le Guin explains that she was inspired by William James and The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life, although she also admits that she was influenced by Dostoevsky. We discussed this theme at length, as well as the uncertain narrator, utopia/dystopia, balance in the world and exploitation. We also explored how Le Guin breaks the fourth wall, and the impacts of it (some of us liked it, others didn’t!).

We also discussed many books, films and TV shows that we thought were similar is someways or were recommend further viewing or reading:

  • The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin
  • Golden Apples in the Sun by Ray Bradbury
  • Brain Pickings by Maria Popova – Blog/E-newsletter
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • East West Street by Phillipe Sands
  • Carnage on Netflix
  • Roma on Netflix
  • They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson)

It was a really interesting discussion and I would love to hear whether this is something people would like more of… And can anyone else recommend any other compelling short stories?

Kelly

 

insole court book club – february

Becoming by Michelle Obama

This book is the first of our group recommendations and the first non-fiction novel that we have delved into as a group. Luckily, many of us received it as a Christmas gift as it wasn’t quite out on paperback at the time of reading. There was a very interesting split in the room of people who enjoy autobiography and people who don’t. There was also an interesting split between people enjoying particular sections of the book more than others. Once again, lovely to welcome some new members!

As always, I’ll share some of our general thoughts and musings, and some further reading/watching. All of us, I think, found it hard to offer up comments or critique as it’s not about a narrative, its her life. So please bear with me. As always, I’m interested to hear your thoughts as well so join in the discussion in the Comments section. Like the physical book club, it’s a friendly place, we don’t bite.

Surprised by how unexceptional her early life was.

Race wasn’t acknowledged as much as expected.

Some disagreed with that.

Appreciated the strength that she needed to keep up with the campaigning.

Interesting and inspiring.

Coming of age shift was interesting to those of a similar age.

White House stuff was a bit glossy. Were her real feelings edited?

She spent a lot of time justifying herself. Had to make an impact.

Extraordinary intelligence.

Her passion for education is infectious.

Ability to excel in life is down to you, and your attitude.

Very charismatic.

Interesting that she leap-frogged her own city’s University.  Didn’t see her place there.

Moving from an individualist view-point to wider perspective.

The need to over-achieve. Especially when you are very visible.

The privilege that comes with wealth.

Different up-bringings in the relationship. Sometimes opposites work. They took a chance with each other.

Awareness of the sacrifices of all of the family members.

Some cultural references that require some knowledge – don’t necessarily translate for UK readers.

‘When they go low, we go high’

Powerful.

  • The West Wing
  • Veep
  • Dreams of My Father by Barack Obama
  • The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
  • Lemmy’s autobiography
  • Nile Rogers autobiography

Our next book club book is Homegoing by Yas Gyasi, meeting on Tuesday 26th March, 7 – 8.30pm in the Reading Room of Insole Court House.

I am also doing a one-off short story book club on Tuesday 5th March as part of the Brilliant Books Festival at Insole Court. We’ll be discussing The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula La Guin. It is available to read for free here. The event is free but ticketed. You can find out more on the Insole Court website.

Kelly

 

Review-ish: The Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb (#1 of the Farseer Triology)

apprentice

‘Most prisons are of our own making. A man makes his own freedom too.’

I fought my corner on this one for awhile, despite the live-in boyfriend wanging on about how good it was, purely because I had wrongly assumed that it was written by a British make, and therefore counter to this blog. So I am quite ashamed at my own unconscious biases and will dig deeper before entirely judging a book by its cover. Lesson learnt.

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden writes under the pseudonym of Robin Hobb and this is the first novel in her Farseer Triolody. She’s a prolific writer and it seems that there are several more series set in this world. Her most recent book was only published in 2017.

I love a good fantasy novel, I really do. And I am intrigued to see where this one goes and learn more about Hobb’s world. However, it was slow in places and wouldn’t have suffered from losing some chunks. As the first in a series, I think that The Assassins Apprentice does a good job of introducing the characters, the laws and the environment, and the characters are fairly typical of this sort of book. Which offers comfortable reading, with the odd twist and turn to keep things interesting.

I enjoyed Burrich’s character immensely. I love a gristled, grumpy, father-figure role. I have such a clear image of him in my mind. There’s a couple of interesting female characters, which I hope will be further developed in the next book.

We are introduced to the concepts of The Wit and The Skill at this stage, although not a deeply as I would have liked. But this could be my impatience.

For me, it offered exactly what I look for in fantasy novels; escapism and an opportunity for compulsive reading. I will pick up the next book, but can already tell that if the pace isn’t quick enough, I probably won’t pick up the third. I’d be really interested to hear what other people think. Sometimes can read a good book at a bad time and this could have been one of those situations.

This is not going to be one of longest reviews because, in all honesty, I read it months ago, and am only now getting around to writing it up. I’ve been focusing on advance reading for the book club. Naughty me. So I have dropped the ball on this one. But we’ve got some really good book club reads coming up that we’ll be discussing very soon.

 

I’ll give myself a C+ for this effort, with a promise to try harder next time!

Kelly

Insole Court Book Club – Spring Reads

spring

Springs Book Club picks are:

  • Tuesday 26th February – Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Tuesday 26th March – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Tuesday 30th April – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Tuesday 28th May – Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel

Read along, join us at Insole Court or share your thoughts here on the blog.

Happy reading!

Kelly

insole court book club – january

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Another whopper of a book for this months book club. But generally well received, some found it gratuitous, some unputdownable. One book club member read us her favourite passage which can be found on Page 323, beginning with ‘Clara was still young…’

Really chuffed with how many people made it along considering the weather that was fore-casted and the bugs that have been going around. It was also lovely to welcome some new faces! As always, I have tried to capture some of the discussion points and suggested further reading, so feel free to join in the conversation in the Comments section below.

Secret, dark core of the Latin psyche.

So much in the book; politics, class, a family saga.

The political crescendo at the end.

Esteban Treubo: emotionally stunted.

Larger than life characters, not necessarily relate-able. Mythical.

Women’s roles in South America at the time (late 1890’s through to 1960’s).

Catholicism and the traditional society.

The fact that the country is never named.

The struggle for power. Venezuela today. Contemporary resonances.

Similar to Gothic novels and Victorian melodrama.

Men like Esteban can be found in Western literature. Very Dickensian.

Last line of the book being the same as the first. Symmetry and the cyclical nature of the story.

Strength of the women in the camp, a ray of light in the dark.

Clara, Blanca and Alba: all names suggest purity, clarity and innocence.

Nine years of muteness! Strength of character.

Suffragettes and corsets. Would like to have heard more of Nivea.

Symbolism and darkness reminded us to Kafka.

 

  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor and 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Maria Marin the play
  • Midnights Children and Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Have any of our lovely followers read any other books by Isabel Allende of any other female Latin authors? Would appreciate any further recommendations!

Our next book club book is Becoming by Michelle Obama, meeting on Tuesday 26th February, 7 – 8.30pm in the Reading Room at Insole Court House.

Kelly