Lucy Worsley Jane Austen at Home Hodder and Soughton Published 02 June 2017 (Given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
Paula Byrne The Genius of Jane Austen Harper Collins Published (given to me by the publisher in exchange an honest review)
2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen. So, expect Jane Austen to be at the forefront of cultural attention. But, when is she not? You see her face on many tee-towels, mugs, etc, etc. Her books are continually turned into; films, theatre productions and TV shows. Her face appears on a bank note. But, how much do we really know about Jane Austen? In this new crop of books, concerning different aspects of Austen life, Worsley and Byrne attempt to cast a new light on the life of this well-known author.
Lucy Worsley, traces Jane Austen’s life through the houses she lived in and her domestic life. Worsley takes on a trip around the various locations that make up Austen’s world, examining her life through every day documents, such as; diaries, recipes, budgets, and personal letters. She goes from Steventon, where Jane was born and lived for the first years if her life, to Chawton, and Winchester, where Austen spent her final years. Worsley looks at the struggles that Jane faced simply to survive, and prosper, on a limited budget.
Lucy Worsley mentions that the Austen’s often preformed plays. She points out that Jane Austen herself wrote theatrical works. Paula Byrne expounds upon this theme. Byrne contextualises Austen’s work with an analysis of the theatrical tradition that existed during Austen’s life and analyses the productions that the Austen’s, and their circle, performed. Byrne argues that the theatre played a large role in Jane Austen’s; life, education, and literary works. Before, examining how Austen’s work has inspired Hollywood, exploring the adaptions that have been made of Austen’s novels.
These two books are both interesting reads. If you want an overview of Austen’s domestic life then the Worsley is the one you should pick up. If you require an exploration of the work, and the works that inspired them, then the Byrne is for you. It would be great to read these books together. It would be great to read these two books in conjunction with Austen’s own works. Both books would make great reading for your Austen summer.
Melbourne University Press
Publication Date – 1st May 2017
I was given this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review, This book was written to quash to (un)truisms about Muslim women: the first, that women are always oppressed by their religion; and, secondly, that women’s liberation can only come through the rejection of Islam. The writer, a western convert to the faith, speaks of people’s reactions to her research, outlining how they would inevitably think that, when she told them that she would be researching women and Islam, she would be talking of victimisation and oppression. They would assume that any activism would take the shape of a rejection of Islam. In the face of this, the author has interviewed Muslim women from; Australia, North America, and Egypt who fight oppression from the inside of their faith, using Islam and Islamic scriptures as a tool in their struggle.
Her interviewees speak of; their relationship to their religion, use of Islamic scripture within their fight for equality, the attitudes of other Muslims, their treatment at the hands of Islamic leaders, their feeling towards the west, their attitudes concerning feminism, and how modern day western thought and apprehensions about Islam affect their lives. These interviews give a challenging, but inspirational, view of the lives of those women fighting to gain a footing in their faith, showing that women can, and have, played a role in Islam, challenging, both; the western ideas concerning their faith and the believes, of some of the adherents of Islam, concerning the role of women. This is an academic work but is accessible to an interested non-academic reader. The writing is clear and there is an absence of academic lingo. If you have an interest in; Islam, faith, gender, activism, scripture, colonialism and/or feminism, you should read this text.
Heath Fogg Davis
Publication Date 06th June 2017
This book was given me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This book challenges our understanding of gender and sexual identity. The author asks the question ‘why are so many spheres of life dependent on a rigid sexualised/gendered segregation. Utilising the case studies of; Transport passes requiring gender identifiers, public toilets, sex segregated colleges and sports, they question the necessity of the sexual/gendered divisions utilised by the institutions that create and govern these artefacts/spaces. This is an interesting and thought provoking work.
Post Truth; the new war on truth and how to fight back
Penguin Random House
Publication Date 18th May 2017
This book looks at the rise of fake news in modern society and seeks to analyse the rise of this phenomena The book explores the ways how the concept of truth and truth telling have been belittled in modern society. The author bemoans the ways in which scientific knowledge and expertise have been discredited by powerful political and business interests. He uses; the Brexit campaign, the Trump campaign, Global warming sceptics, holocaust deniers and those spreading fear over vaccinations to build his case. He argues that these campaigns have been based on a disregarding of truth, and scientific fact, and an exploitation of emotional rhetoric. The author argues that these stories have gained wings with the advent of social media. This is an interesting and topical work that needs to be read.
For my first hour of the #readathon, I have been reading/listening to literary theory by Claire Connors. It’s a really good book about literary and how we read. What are you reading today? Are you doing #readathon? I will check back in with you later.
Margaret the First
The Descent of Man
Please Note – Both books reviewed in this blog were kindly given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
So, we begin a new year. It’s time to clear up the loose ends of 2016. Then, I can move on to 2017. I will begin with my goals; I failed them all. I planned an ambitious reading goal of 180 books. While I easily achieved this goal in 2015/16, last year I read only 119 books. In addition, I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge (#awwc2016). I only read one book from this challenge. As for my read the awards challenge, as predicted, I started well but then my enthusiasm flagged.
So, am I going to set any goals for 2017? Yes, I am gambling on a peaceful year and hoping that I can focus on my reading and writing. So, I have set my Good Reads reading challenge at 120. In addition, I have signed up to read 10 books that are over 400 pages long. Once again, I have signed up for the AWWWC, setting my goal at 24 books. As for awards, I plan to read along with a few but not as many as last year. I think I’ll see what happens throughout the year.
Now for the reviews.
I must apologise for how long it has taken me to write these reviews. I read these books before Christmas but, due to family and political traumas, didn’t feel like sitting down at my computer. I found it hard just to do basic work. Firstly, I will begin with Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton. This has a glorious cover and is a beautiful artefact. The book takes on the story of the historic figure Margaret Cavendish. Cavendish lived during an eventful period of English history. She was part of Charles I court, before having to flee England at the end of the civil war. This book outlines; her childhood, time in court, time in exile and her decision to begin her life as a writer. This experimentally written book explores what it was like to be a minor aristocrat during turbulent times. It explores what it was like to be a woman during a period where men reigned. It is an exciting read
Secondly, I turn my attention to Greyson Perry’s the Descent of Man. If Margaret the First looked at a woman in a man’s world, this book turns its attention to the male of the species. Using; their own experience, knowledge gained through conversations, and existing academic research, Perry explores how are current ideas of masculinity can be toxic to men. This book would make an excellent introduction to the topics and issues surrounding masculinity and is written in an enjoyably accessible way.
Both books are well worth a read. Both, look at different aspects of the gender divide. Whether a female living in a man’s world or a man living in a man’s world, it comes to the same thing. Both mem and women; cis and trans, must learn to navigate this toxic environment