Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided? Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?
The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.
Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.”
Each story involves a different woman who is undergoing an issue that makes them feel uncomfortable, undecided, or angry told from a feminist perspective. In short, all the women in these stories want to roar!
The main idea behind these stories is wonderfully original, as they are told through allegories. Some of the situations are really quite outlandish, but they mostly managed to ring quite true.
I found myself able to relate to many of the characters and the universal everyday issues they experienced as women struggling to have it all, as we do often do in this day and age. None of the main characters were given names, and I felt this was a nice touch that really made the women feel like ‘every woman.’
ROAR is a refreshing and creative take on feminism. I did feel that it became somewhat repetitive, but the ideas behind it are fascinating. 4 stars!
I’ve been hoarding my beautiful Vintage Classic edition of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY for some time, so I was excited to make the time to revisit an old favourite during my month of selfish reading.
I was giving the gentlest of nudges to hurry up and get reading by the brilliant author of THE GIRL ON THE PAGE,John Purcell, who reminded me of the universality of Jane Austen’s novels in his bestselling debut. We have since bonded on Twitter over our mutual agreement that there is no problem in the world that can’t be made better by curling up my favourite classic author.
“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him – that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”
Paperback, 444 pages
Published: June 26th 2014 by Vintage Classics (first published October 30th 1811)
“Elinor is as prudent as her sister Marianne is impetuous. Each must learn from the other after they are they are forced by their father’s death to leave their home and enter into the contests of polite society. The charms of unsuitable men and the schemes of rival ladies mean that their paths to success are thwart with disappointment but together they attempt to find a way to happiness.”
It’s been years since I read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, or any of Jane Austen’s novels, and it felt just like catching up with a good friend. Austen’s debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, who are about as different as two sisters can be.
Marianne is the youngest and has the very strong opinions commonly found in teenagers. She is convinced that her future husband will love all the same things as she does, will sweep her off her feet in a whirlwind romance, and that it is only possible to truly love one person.
Elinor is far more sensible and spends a great deal of her time making excuses for Marianne’s rudeness to potential beaux and well-meaning neighbours alike.
The novel begins when Mr Dashwood’s death means that the girls and their mother are forced to leave their home to allow their elder half brother and his greedy wife to move in. This reflects Austen’s own life, as she was also forced to move due to unfavourable inheritances.
Marianne finds romance with the charming Willoughby, while scorning the elder and far more steady Colonel Brandon. Elinor is left wondering if her romance with her sister in law’s brother, Edward Ferrars, was all she thought it was when she encounters a rival she never knew existed.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Even though this was Austen’s very first novel, it is a delightful read. I couldn’t help but think on this reading that a lot of the problems he characters went through were very British and could have been solved with a little bit of straight talking, but their polite inability to say what they really think is one of the reasons the rest of the world loves the British so much.
I’ve made a commitment to myself to read selfishly in January. I know that I will be snowed under a pile of journal articles soon enough, so I’m doing my best to get around to all of the books that were shoved to the bottom of my TBR pile last year.
The first cab off the rank is THE LAST TUDOR by the bestselling historical fiction great, Philippa Gregory. I’ve been a big fan of Gregory’s Tudor novels ever since THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL took the world by storm far too many years ago for my liking, and I’ve been looking forward to reading Gregory’s take on the Grey sisters for ages!
Paperback, 544 pages
Published: July 1st 2018 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published August 8th 2017)
“The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features
one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.
Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.
“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.
“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?”
Philippa Gregory is well-known for her historical novels focusing on the Tudor and Plantagenet families and Jane Grey is such a fascinating character of this period, so I was excited to see how she portrayed the Grey sisters.
The book is split into three sections that tell the story from the perspective of each of the Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Jane is a well-known historical figure, but I have to admit that I knew very little about Kathryn and Mary going in.
The eldest sister, Jane, was proclaimed queen for nine days by her scheming family and Dudley in-laws after the death of Edward VI. She was a devout Protestant, having studied with Kathryn Parr and the great grand-daughter of Henry VII through his daughter, Mary Tudor, Queen of France.
Her reign was swiftly terminated when Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII, was able to form an army and win the favour of the Privy Council. Jane was found guilty of high treason and beheaded on February 12 1554, along with her husband, father, and other key members of the plot to put Jane on the throne.
The middle Grey sister – Katherine – was forced to remain in first Queen Mary’s court, then Elizabeth’s. She has almost no family remaining, her marriage was annulled, and she is treated as a threat by both queens. If she married and had a baby boy she would have as much as a claim to the throne as Jane had before her.
While Elizabeth is busy staving of threats to her crown by her other cousins – Mary, Queen of Scots and Mary Douglas – Kathryn marries Edward Seymour in secret, and is imprisoned under house arrest once Elizabeth discovers their betrothal.
The third Grey sister – Mary – was a Little Person and the only Grey sister to survive Queen Elizabeth’s fear of a Tudor heir and have children of her own.
A lot of people complain that Gregory too often uses a writing trope ‘as you know, Bob’ where she includes too much information about story details by having characters that already know this information talk about it together.
I did notice it throughout the novel, but I don’t have an issue about it in this case. The families of this time period are complicated and confusing, and I would much prefer to have the slight irk over unrealistic dialogue than to get bogged down in figuring out who everyone is all the time.
I loved diving back into the Tudor world with Gregory, although I was sad to read that this might be her last novel that focuses on the Tudors as she is heading in a new direction now.
A hilarious and heart-warming debut that captures the dramas, delights and delirium of modern parenting. This is Marian Keyes meets Allison Pearson, with a dash of Caitlin Moran.
Going from one child to two is never all that easy for a family, but when Emma’s husband simultaneously fathers a third child three doors up the street, things get very tricky, very fast.
No longer is it enough for Emma to be the best wife and mother – now she’s trying to be the best ex-wife, and the best part-time parent to her ex’s love child, and that’s before she even thinks about adding a new bloke to the mix.
Set in an upwardly mobile, ultra-competitive suburb, this is a funny, biting, heartwarming modern comedy that looks at the roles we play, how we compete, and what happens when we dare to strive for second-best.
‘Jessica Dettmann is a fine comic writer. She has an eye for the small details, irritations and inspirations of life which coupled with a truly original turn of phrase and great way with a gag makes for sparkling and heart-warming reading.’ Ben Elton
‘Sharp and crisp and funny. I was dazzled.’ Mia Freedman
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 17th 2018 by HarperCollins – AU
A lighthearted romantic comedy highlighting the ups and downs of modern parenthood.
HOW TO BE SECOND BEST by Jessica Dettmann examines what happens when Emma decides to be second best for a change.
She has been so busy trying to be the best at everything ever since her husband left her to start a family with another woman that she hasn’t realised just how much of a pushover she has become. By taking a step back from the competitiveness of modern parenting Emma’s life begins to fall into place, including in the romance department!
HOW TO BE SECOND BEST is a great beach read. Dettmann has hilariously captured the craziness and competitiveness of modern suburban parenthood, which is often made more difficult with mixed families. I particularly enjoyed the swimming pool scene!
The characters were incredibly well-written and I love the concept of teaching yourself how to be second best in a world where everything seems to be a competition.
“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love, ‘ he said… ‘There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'”
A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.
How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.
Tom Hazard looks like a normal man in his 40’s but due to a rare and largely unknown medical condition, he is actually more than 400 years old. After surviving his early years in in medieval France and England – where he worked for a brilliant young playwright called William Shakespeare and tragically fell in love – Tom became part of the Albatross Society.
The first condition of the secretive Albatross Society, made up of people like Tom, is that you can’t fall in love. Members are also forbidden from seeing a doctor, required to move location every eight years and must recruit new members for the Albatross Society in between each move.
After living this nomadic life for 400 or so years – which included sailing the seas with Captain Cook and encounters in jazz bars in Paris with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald – Tom just wants to go back to his old home in London and live an ordinary life as a high school history teacher. Being back home and a forbidden romance bring up painful memories of Tom’s past and he has no choice but to decide between the restrictive, and increasingly dangerous Albatross Society or begin his life again in the present.
I loved HOW TO STOP TIME and I’m already looking forward to re-reading it soon! Matt Haig has an insightful way with words and beautifully conveyed the range of emotions that Tom experienced living for centuries. Long enough to watch everybody he loved and care for die, and then to watch humanity make the same mistakes over and over again throughout history.
I loved the way that real-life historical figures featured throughout the novel through Tom’s memories, particularly the way that Shakespeare was portrayed as an eccentric but kind hearted genius with a keen sense of observation.
About the Author
Matt Haig is a British author for children and adults. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for 46 weeks. His children’s book A Boy Called Christmas was a runaway hit and is translated in over 25 languages. It is being made into a film by Studio Canal and The Guardian called it an ‘instant classic’. His novels for adults include the award-winning The Radleys and The Humans.
He won the TV Book Club ‘book of the series’, and has been shortlisted for a Specsavers National Book Award. The Humans was chosen as a World Book Night title. His children’s novels have won the Smarties Gold Medal, the Blue Peter Book of the Year, been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times
You’ve only just met.
But she already knows you so well.
When Rachel moves into the spare room in Mary’s flat, everyone is quick to jump to the conclusion that there’s something strange about her. Everyone apart from Mary.
And when Rachel starts sleepwalking, everyone’s fears grow. But there’s something about the new girl that Mary can’t help but trust, and having recently escaped a toxic relationship, she needs the support.
Rachel becomes a friend and an ally, and Mary soon discovers that they have more in common than she ever could have imagined.
In fact, Rachel seems to know more about Mary than she knows about herself…
Mary shares a flat with her long time best friend, Cat, and likable school teacher, Ben in a Sydney flat right by the beach. The room mates decide to bring in a new girl, Rachael, to help with the rent, but Mary is the only one out of the group who doesn’t think the new girl is a weirdo. As Mary gets to know Rachael she discovers that they have more in common than she first thought. They both have a troubled background full of secrets and betrayals, and Mary begins to grow closer to Rachael than she is with her best friend, Cat.
I don’t want to say any more about the plot of THE NEW GIRL in case I give away any of the crazy plot twists! I read this novel very quickly because I was constantly on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was really going on. I never would have guessed the ending of this novel in a million years and the final reveal was so well done. 4 stars!
About the Author
Ingrid Alexandra was born and raised in Sydney and now lives on the New South Wales central coast.
Her work has previously been long-listed for The Ampersand Prize and while living in London, Ingrid had the privilege of being mentored by the Guardian First Novel Award shortlisted and Nestle Prize winning author Daren King.
THE NEW GIRL is her first psychological thriller novel. She is currently working on her second.
Two women, two great betrayals, one path to redemption. A punchy, powerful and page-turning novel about the redemptive power of great literature, from industry insider, John Purcell.
Amy Winston is a hard-drinking, bed-hopping, hot-shot young book editor on a downward spiral. Having made her name and fortune by turning an average thriller writer into a Lee Child, Amy is given the unenviable task of steering literary great Helen Owen back to publication.
When Amy knocks on the door of their beautiful townhouse in north-west London, Helen and her husband, the novelist Malcolm Taylor, are conducting a silent war of attrition. The townhouse was paid for with the enormous seven-figure advance Helen was given for the novel she wrote to end fifty years of making ends meet on critical acclaim alone. The novel Malcolm thinks unworthy of her. The novel Helen has yet to deliver. The novel Amy has come to collect.
Amy has never faced a challenge like this one. Helen and Malcolm are brilliant, complicated writers who unsettle Amy into asking questions of herself – questions about what she values, her principles, whether she has integrity, whether she is authentic. Before she knows it, answering these questions becomes a matter of life or death.
From ultimate book industry insider, John Purcell, comes a literary page-turner, a ferocious and fast-paced novel that cuts to the core of what it means to balance ambition and integrity, and the redemptive power of great literature.
“Two women, two great betrayals, one path to redemption.”
THE GIRL ON THE PAGE by Australian publishing insider, John Purcell, exposes the seedy underbelly of publishing while pondering the meaning of great literature.
Amy Winston is a hard working and hard partying young editor who made her career launch off the ground by taking an average thriller writer and turning him into a household name. She is given the unenviable task of doing the same for literary giant, Helen Owen.
Helen and her husband, Malcolm Taylor, have been at odds with each other ever since Helen undertook the huge signing bonus to write the novel Amy has been told to edit into the commercial success of the year and moved them out of the tiny flat they had shared and written literary fiction in, even sharing an office, for more than 50 years.
When Amy walks into this complicated situation and agrees to stay at Helen and Malcolm’s flat until the novel is completed she bites off far more than she bargained for and is left to question her career, her principles, and what is the meaning of great literature.
THE GIRL ON THE PAGE was far more deep and meaningful than I expected from all of the buzz surrounding it. I’ve seen/heard a lot of comparisons to the television series “YOUNGER” and while they are similar in how they take us behind the scenes of the publishing industry, I don’t think that comparison really does “THE GIRL ON THE PAGE” justice. There were plenty of gritty sex scenes and a fascinating insider’s view of the publishing industry. John Purcell’s industry insider credentials are very strong, as he is the current Director of Books at Booktopia and owned his own bookshop for many years. I particularly loved the inside joke of the title of both this novel and the fictional “GIRL ON GIRL” novel. It does seem as though every second popular book at the moment has either “girl” or “woman” in the title!
“THE GIRL ON THE PAGE” is far more gritty, fast-paced, and shocking than “YOUNGER”. It will certainly cause you to ask yourself what does great literature mean to you? I particularly loved the final pages where Malcolm discusses what great literature means to him, and couldn’t agree more with his use of Jane Austen’s “EMMA” as an example of great literature.
About the Author
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing.
Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines.
Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.