One Hundred Stories that Shaped the World?

The BBC has recently polled a number of experts to vote for the most influential stories of all time and have compiled the responses into a Top 100. I thought it would be fun to look through the list a) to see if I agree and b) to see how many I’ve read (highlighted in bold).

After an initial look, there’s quite a few novels that I’ve never heard of (The Epic of Gilgamesh? Water Margin?) but I feel like some of you clever lot will be far more au fait with the titles. I liked how many of the stories seem to be foreign and how varied the list was – I guess you can interpret the word “influential” in numerous different ways. One thing I did notice was the lack of religious texts. Surely the Bible, Qur’an etc. have been more influential than any other books? I’m not sure why some of the stories from the central texts haven’t been included. 

The BBC have said that this isn’t a definitive list but a starting point, aiming to spark conversation. This made me think about why some stories are still popular hundreds of years after they were written. How do they remain relevant? Is it because they have an overriding lesson to teach us? Is that what makes us select certain tales to pass along through the generations – does a story need to teach us something important to inspire people to pass the knowledge on? Or is there something innate in the act of storytelling that culturally binds us? Read the list and tell me what you think!

1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)

2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)

3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)

4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)

5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)

6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)

7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)

8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)

9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)

10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)

11. Beloved (Toni Morrison, 1987)

12. The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri, 1308-1320)

13. Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare, 1597)

14. The Epic of Gilgamesh (author unknown, circa 22nd-10th Centuries BC)

15. Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling, 1997-2007)

16. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood, 1985)

17. Ulysses (James Joyce, 1922)

18. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)

19. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)

20. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert, 1856)

21. Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Luo Guanzhong, 1321-1323)

22. Journey to the West (Wu Cheng’en, circa 1592)

23. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevksy, 1866)

24. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)

25. Water Margin (attributed to Shi Nai’an, 1589)

26. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, 1865-1867)

27. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee, 1960)

28. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys, 1966)

29. Aesop’s Fables (Aesop, circa 620 to 560 BC)

30. Candide (Voltaire, 1759)

31. Medea (Euripides, 431 BC)

32. The Mahabharata (attributed to Vyasa, 4th Century BC)

33. King Lear (William Shakespeare, 1608)

34. The Tale of Genji (Murasaki Shikibu, before 1021)

35. The Sorrows of Young Werther (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1774)

36. The Trial (Franz Kafka, 1925)

37. Remembrance of Things Past (Marcel Proust, 1913-1927)

38. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë, 1847)

39. Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison, 1952)

40. Moby-Dick (Herman Melville, 1851)

41. Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston, 1937)

42. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf, 1927)

43. The True Story of Ah Q (Lu Xun, 1921-1922)

44. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)

45. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy, 1873-1877)

46. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899)

47. Monkey Grip (Helen Garner, 1977)

48. Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925)

49. Oedipus the King (Sophocles, 429 BC)

50. The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka, 1915)

51. The Oresteia (Aeschylus, 5th Century BC)

52. Cinderella (unknown author and date)

53. Howl (Allen Ginsberg, 1956)

54. Les Misérables (Victor Hugo, 1862)

55. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1871-1872)

56. Pedro Páramo (Juan Rulfo, 1955)

57. The Butterfly Lovers (folk story, various versions)

58. The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer, 1387)

59. The Panchatantra (attributed to Vishnu Sharma, circa 300 BC)

60. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, 1881)

61. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark, 1961)

62. The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (Robert Tressell, 1914)

63. Song of Lawino (Okot p’Bitek, 1966)

64. The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing, 1962)

65. Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie, 1981)

66. Nervous Conditions (Tsitsi Dangarembga, 1988)

67. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943)

68. The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967)

69. The Ramayana (attributed to Valmiki, 11th Century BC)

70. Antigone (Sophocles, c 441 BC)

71. Dracula (Bram Stoker, 1897)

72. The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K Le Guin, 1969)

73. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens, 1843)

74. América (Raúl Otero Reiche, 1980)

75. Before the Law (Franz Kafka, 1915)

76. Children of Gebelawi (Naguib Mahfouz, 1967)

77. Il Canzoniere (Petrarch, 1374)

78. Kebra Nagast (various authors, 1322)

79. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott, 1868-1869)

80. Metamorphoses (Ovid, 8 AD)

81. Omeros (Derek Walcott, 1990)

82. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1962)

83. Orlando (Virginia Woolf, 1928)

84. Rainbow Serpent (Aboriginal Australian story cycle, date unknown)

85. Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates, 1961)

86. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719)

87. Song of Myself (Walt Whitman, 1855)

88. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain, 1884)

89. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain, 1876)

90. The Aleph (Jorge Luis Borges, 1945)

91. The Eloquent Peasant (ancient Egyptian folk story, circa 2000 BC)

92. The Emperor’s New Clothes (Hans Christian Andersen, 1837)

93. The Jungle (Upton Sinclair, 1906)

94. The Khamriyyat (Abu Nuwas, late 8th-early 9th Century)

95. The Radetzky March (Joseph Roth, 1932)

96. The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)

97. The Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie, 1988)

98. The Secret History (Donna Tartt, 1992)

99. The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats, 1962)

100. Toba Tek Singh (Saadat Hasan Manto, 1955)


Do you agree that these are the most influential books of all time? How many books from this list have you read? Why do you think they’re still influential today? Have you been personally influenced by any of them?  Let me know in the comments!

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Review: The Lido by Libby Page

​​”Sometimes you need to swim outside the lanes”

Genre: General Fiction, British Fiction (I refuse to write Women’s Fiction just because it’s a story with female characters)

Similar to: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, *whispers* Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (I don’t want to jump on the NEXT BIG THING bandwagon)

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of quirky, heartwarming British literature

Publication date: 19th April 2018

Well blow me down with a feather – it’s so rare nowadays to hear the words South London in relation to anything other than knife crime/drugs/violence and yet…what do we have here? A book about COMMUNITY and FRIENDSHIP and PEOPLE BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER and it is so lovely and touching and relevant that I want to weep.

The Lido is the story of Rosemary (86), who has lived in Brixton for all of her life. She’s been a regular user of Brockwell Lido since she was a child and still goes every morning for her daily swim. When the local council announce plans to sell the facility off to redevelopers, Kate (26) is asked to cover the story for the local paper. After meeting Rosemary, Kate realises that the lido is so much more than just somewhere to exercise and her and Rosemary’s battle to save it gives them both a new purpose as well as an unlikely friendship.

I really enjoyed the overall premise of the book. I liked the idea that one of the characters (Rosemary) had lived in the area all of her life, and the way that she talked about her home really gave you a sense of what it was like to live in Brixton, how it had changed but how there was still a thriving community, just like there always had been. I thought that the time slips back to Rosemary’s younger days (including her fond memories of her husband George) worked particularly well and I loved that, as an older character, she brought so much local knowledge that really grounded the story. I found her descriptions of the lido in the 1940’s and 50’s particularly evocative and her personal account gave me an emotional connection to the building and the campaign to save it.

I thought that the author did particularly well to write such a charming, quirky book that covered some big, weighty topics. Loneliness is a key theme (both in younger and older people) and I could definitely relate to the feeling of living in a city full of people but still being cut off and isolated from the world. I loved that Rosemary was able to help Kate to integrate into the local community and that helping her to do so also gave Rosemary a new friend *thinks for the five millionth time about volunteering locally*. I also thought that issues around grief and depression were handled sensitively – we definitely need to hear more about bereavement in older people.

I really enjoyed the depiction of exercise helping people with anxiety and low self esteem. I thought it was really interesting that the author chose an individual sport like swimming but still managed to show how just taking part gave the characters so much more than a workout. I know I immediately thought about making more use of my local council pool (then I remembered how much effort it takes to prepare to swim and how disgusting the sports centre is – it’s due to be demolished and rebuilt so maybe I’ll go to the new one*)

The only drawback I have for The Lido is that it does occasionally dip its toe into the saccharine waters of the overly sentimental (see what I did there?) and there’s a romance storyline that feels a bit unnecessary and slightly detracts from the overriding theme of strong female friendship (why does a character always have to pull to evidence their newfound happiness?) but overall the pacing is good and there was enough drama to keep me entertained. 

Apart from those minor niggles, I think it goes without saying that I loved The Lido. It’s a completely feel-good read that still covered a whole bunch of difficult topics. I loved that the characters of Rosemary and Kate became friends despite the age gap and I especially liked how having an older character gave the novel a grounding and history that enhanced my emotional connection. I found the whole thing utterly charming – perfect as a gentle summery read.

Rating: Four hold-your-nose-and-jumps out of five.

Lovely, funny, sad, joyous, infuriating, heartwarming, evocative, charming, uplifting, emotional…literally ALL OF THE FEELS. The Lido is like a hug in a book.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! I also read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #23 Read a book with a female protagonist over the age of 60. 

*  I definitely won’t. 

 

Review: The Apollo Illusion by Shari Lopatin

“Where nothing is ever what it seems”

Genre: Dystopian Suspense, Sci-fi, YA, Speculative fiction

Similar to: The Hunger Games.

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of YA, especially if you feel like you’re growing out of the genre a little.

Publication date: 19th May 2018

Disclaimer: I was approached by Shari to review her new book, The Apollo Illusion and although I usually turn requests like these down (“it’s about a spatula that turns into a person” – no thanks) I read through her biog and the blurb of the book and thought “actually…this sounds pretty good”. Then I read that Shari was nominated as Cat Mom of the Year so I said yes immediately. I just want to make it clear that even though I was directly approached by the author and I’ve had some correspondence with her, my views are entirely impartial, these are all my own words, obviously I’m not being paid etc. etc.

Good ☺. Glad we’ve cleared that up.

So, The Apollo Illusion. After reading oh-so-many YA books recently that made me realise I was far too old to connect with them, I was really hoping for a novel that still spoke to me even though I’m (eek) 15ish years older than the main characters – and this book doesn’t disappoint. Yes, it’s dystopian YA and yes, it’s a crowded marketplace and yes, there’s a lot of similarities and tropes but I really felt like The Apollo Illusion brought something new to the table. More importantly, I really enjoyed it.

Flora and Andrew are best friends from the year 2150, living in Apollo; an isolated city surrounded by a wall – and you’ve guessed it, they’re not allowed to know what’s on the other side. However, unlike every-other-dystopian-fiction-ever, Apollo itself is, well, actually pretty amazing. It’s an odd mix of 1950’s grow your own veg charm, with the socialist ideal of free education/healthcare etc. and all the technological and societal advances of 2010. The residents send text messages, have libraries, read print newspapers, and use phrases like “bros over hoes” (I really hope that phrase has died out in 130 years time). However, despite living in such a utopia, Flora wants out. She’s got an insatiable thirst for knowledge and wants to know what’s on the other side of that damn wall. Her curiosity gets her into hot water with the authorities, and with a sudden change in her fortunes (plus a meeting with a shady emo boy who looks like a member of My Chemical Romance) she realises that escape might be her only option. Cue drama, plot twists, a will they/won’t they relationship and a frankly terrifying version of the future.

At first, I was a bit unsure about this book. I really liked the writing, the characters and the literary references (gotta love a bookish character) but the world building seemed a bit off. I mean, print newspapers 130 years from now? Surely a book set ten years in the future wouldn’t have those – let alone text messages or photocopiers? All I can say about this is – go with it. I can’t reveal too much but suddenly, everything becomes clear. It’s a proper “ohhhhh, I get it” moment. 

I loved the main characters of Flora and Andrew. I really liked that they were both a bit older than your average YA characters so their relationship was more complicated – and therefore more interesting. It allowed for deeper emotional issues and there was even some casual sex thrown in for good measure which made the whole thing feel far more realistic. I especially loved how Flora grew from a bullied young girl to a gutsy heroine with her fearless quest for the truth and I was so pleased to see the feelings that she and Andrew had for each other grow organically, with setbacks, insecurities and basic dumb bloke stupidity all hampering their burgeoning relationship. No insta-love here!

I found the way the The Apollo Illusion presented two alternative versions of the future (one for the residents of Apollo and one for the other side of the wall) to be really thought provoking. I loved how the good and bad in each setup was explored and the questions that this threw up: is it better to live in blissful ignorance of the lies, corruption and amount of control that the government has or is it better for citizens to have free will – even if that extends to being able to act in ways which are detrimental to society? Should you trust the government to “control” the population, and is the loss of your freedom ultimately worth it if it means you can live in a peaceful society? Weirdly, I found a lot of parallels with the current Facebook scandal as well as the wider political climate and I’m still thinking through my feelings on these issues. 

On the downside, there were a couple of plot points that kind of niggled at me whilst I was reading – I found a certain encounter between Flora and another character a bit too coincidental and there were a couple of instances where I would have thought the authorities would have been all over them but I loved how the story played out and how the action just kept coming. I have to say that I did feel a bit let down by part of the ending – it felt to me like a kind of compromise was reached between characters who would have had a more all or nothing approach – but it made for some lovely subsequent scenes that rounded things off nicely.

Overall, I couldn’t believe that The Apollo Illusion was written by an indie author – it’s so professional and flowed far better than many novels put out by major publishing houses. I loved the characters, their relationships with each other and the action packed storytelling that kept me engaged all the way through. I thought it was a really exciting, enjoyable read – especially if you’re a fan of dystopian YA.

Rating: Four emo boys out of five.

Pacey, exciting storytelling with great characters, loads of action and a super cute romance. What’s not to love?

Look! Links to where you can pre-order The Apollo Illusion!

You can also sign up for The Readers Club to be notified the moment that print copies go on sale ☺

Review: Clean by Juno Dawson

“It’s a dirty business getting Clean”

Genre: YA, Adult fiction

Similar to: Gossip Girl (apparently)

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of harder hitting YA literature like 13 Reasons Why but with realistic representation, better writing and characters who take self responsibility…so more like people who wanted to like 13 Reasons Why but found it problematic ☺

Publication date: 5th April 2018

Wow. Imagine having an idea for a book about heroin addiction and recovery – but aimed at a YA audience. How do you make such a hard hitting subject appeal to teenagers in a way that isn’t massively over complicated and depressing but conversely isn’t so lighthearted that it minimises or God forbid glamourises the topic? That’s a pretty difficult balance so I’m pretty much in awe of Juno Dawson for getting it almost spot on with their new novel Clean *raises hands in praise*.

The story features Lexi Volkov, the spoilt child of billionaire Russian parents living the high life in London. But when your party hard lifestyle includes a toxic cocktail of booze, pills, coke and heroin it’s bound to catch up with you eventually – and when it does it’s really going to hurt. So when Lexi’s brother realises how far gone his sister is he packs her off to the best treatment facility available. As Lexi begins to sober up she realises how much of her life revolves around her addiction – so how can she be the same person if she’s clean?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. I loved how compelling the writing was (it really is excellently written) and how engrossed I quickly became in the storyline. Despite how many of the characters initially seemed to be shallow, vain and self absorbed I really liked how setting the majority of the book in a rehab facility allowed for a deep exploration into the reasons for their behaviour. I thought it was great that other types of addictions were written about (this must be one a very few number of YA books featuring a teenage sex addict) and I especially liked that one of the characters just happened to be trans, one was black, one was Islamic – but that they were fleshed out to be a three dimensional people with multi-faceted issues (not just token bits of piecemeal representation) that all fitted with the main storyline. This is diverse representation done well.

Initially I found it hard to like Lexi. Her spoilt, poor little rich girl act was especially irritating and I hated that she was beautiful, intelligent, massively privileged and still expected to live her destructive, hedonistic lifestyle regardless of the consequences. However, there was something compelling about her bravado and as the story progressed I began to understand that her life wasn’t as glamorous as it first appeared. As she became more self reflective, it was easy to see how her attitude was her security blanket and that underneath she was lonely, scared and surrounded by people who just wanted to use her. By the end of the book I was totally team Lexi ☺.I

I liked the way that the author didn’t say away from the realities of sobering up from drug addiction (at one point Lexi wakes up to find she’s shit the bed) and her resistance to any kind of help or support felt completely authentic. Her toxic relationship with her boyfriend back in London also felt very realistic and although I wasn’t too keen on the whole symbolic act of finding a young stallion and breaking it in (literally – the couple who run the rehab centre keep horses) I did at least like the horse as a character and found he gave a bit of light relief. I liked that Juno Dawson included some characters who were too far gone to be saved and I thought that she brilliantly illustrated the complex emotional/mental health problems that go hand in hand with addictive behaviour. 

However, I did have a few reservations about the novel. There’s a relationship featuring the aforementioned sex addict that made me wonder “is this minimising the issue?” and there was a distinct lack of medical complications resulting from addiction (anything from depression and anxiety to unwanted pregnancy, STDs, HIV etc.) I think that part of the reason that the characters mostly seemed to get off  lightly in relation to further complications was their monied backgrounds – if they had been ordinary people they would have needed to resort to theft/violence/prostitution to keep their habits going. 

I wasn’t sure about the ending (I know it’s YA but everything seemed a bit too perfect) although I appreciated the realism of Lexi’s struggle when she left the facility. 

Overall I really enjoyed Clean. I thought that Dawson nailed the diverse representation angle, the characters were totally believable and although parts of it were a bit trite there was enough shocking content to not glamorize addiction. On a personal note, I have a friend who has just left rehab so the book really struck a chord with me. Despite it being a work of fiction, it’s honestly made me far more aware of how rehab works and what support might be necessary going forwards. Fingers crossed ☺.
 
Rating: Four wild stallions out of five.

Shocking but warm, annoying but relatable, funny but sad; everyone needs their fix of Clean.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! 

 

Review: A Good Time to be a Girl by Helena Morissey

​”Don’t lean in, change the system”

Genre: Business, Non Fiction (Adult) 

Similar to: (ironically) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Could be enjoyed by: Bored business students

Publication date: 8th February 2018

As some of you may know, my undergraduate degree was in business (don’t ask – I really should have done English) and so I’ve retained a somewhat passing interest in the world of employment and in particular my specialist areas of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This field also ties in nicely with my feminist ideals and broader perspective that we should just employ people based on what they’re good at, not what we think they’re good at because of some lazy ass stereotypes (I probably need to put that into more polite wording of I’m going to use it in a job interview). So when I saw A Good Time to be a Girl I thought “huzzah! This will be a delightful crossover of lots of things that I’m interested in, written by a woman who has actually done some stuff and is educated enough to make a decent, interesting book out of her ‘journey’!”

Except…she doesn’t. A Good Time to be a Girl is just dull. It’s the story of the author’s corporate career and her creation of the 30% Club, a concept designed to make big business boards of directors 30% female. Whilst I applaud her efforts and I like the idea of a more gender balanced workforce (especially in the top tier) I don’t be necessarily want to read an entire novel about how she did it. There’s a lot of name dropping (I spoke to Sir Stanley so and so, who put me in touch with Lord thingybob) – all people that I’d never heard of – and the whole thing simply drips with privilege (I guarantee that all of these people are white, upper class privately educated men allowing a few white, upper class privately educated women in). No mention of ethnic minorities or people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, people from different socio-economic backgrounds, disabled people etc. etc…so in my eyes not really diversity, despite the fact that many of the initiatives for recruiting women into senior positions could equally apply to other under represented groups. Grrrr.

The main thing that annoyed me about the idea of a 30% Club was a) it’s a quota and b) if you are going for quantitative measures, why not 50%? 30% feels like a grovelling acceptance that businesses obviously can’t be expected to achieve equal representation but letting in just a couple of us…pretty please…means diversity has been reached. High fives all round! No more work to be done here!

What I really struggled to equate was the idea that a quantitative measure (30%) could be linked to the idea of a “better team” or “better working environment” – something that’s far more likely to be measured with qualitative research (questionnaires, interviews etc.). If you wanted to link the idea that teams that are gender balanced perform better based on performance outputs (sales figures, profits etc.) then there will be a huge number of variables affecting the validity of your research. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in the concept of diversity but I am saying that measuring it’s impact on the bottom line is very difficult – possibly the reason that Helena Morissey negated to do any follow up research into the outcomes of her project and instead focused on how many people signed up to it. Hmmmm.

I think it’s the author’s overall idea that women and men are two discreet, homologous groups who behave as “men” and “women” which I found most ridiculous. When we talk about wanting gender balance or diversity, what most companies want is to exploit the idea that having a group of individuals who will all challenge the status quo and bring new ideas and perspectives will be good for business performance. However, I don’t think that’s as simple as hiring a few token women to hit a target. Having a corporate culture that encourages debate, actively looks for diversification opportunities and pushes to attract the best talent is the only way that a truly diverse workforce will thrive. We need to remember that a culture that rewards yes men can equally reward yes women.

Morissey also fails to investigate the impact of the 30% Club on the very people that it’s meant to be helping – the women. I’m absolutely certain that an initiative which is so blunt in it’s aims would attract a lot of negativity. I’m sure that for many of the women promoted, there would be gossip that “she only got the job because she’s female” and that this would massively undermine both confidence of the women in their abilities and the confidence of the men in their employer. You hear none of the issues being discussed though – A Good Time to be a Girl has almost no negativity in it whatsoever. I think it was this focus solely on the positives that meant I really didn’t connect with the book – there was literally no emotion in it.

On the plus side, I liked the (somewhat tenuous, but whatever) link between diverse teams equals better business performance and if this had been backed up with proper research it would have been even more useful. I think that in order to “sell” the concept of diversity we need to focus on this concept far more, not some airy fairy idea that having more women in senior positions is somehow “the right thing to do”. I know I’d be far more inclined to listen if someone told me that they could increase our profits by 5% next year, rather than “I think we need more women…”.  

 I also liked the inclusion of the authors personal story (although written in a very impersonal manner) and thought that she would have some real insights into how to achieve a senior position whilst also having a family (she has nine kids). Unfortunately, instead of being a trailblazer for flexible working, she simply had a stay at home husband – something that the vast majority of families simply can’t afford to do – so no real insights there. I’m not even sure why she includes the fact that she was a working mum? It seemed a bit out of context.

Overall, I thought that A Good Time to be a Girl absolutely had a place as a business manual, but not as an exciting or engaging read. I liked the idea that diversity = success but needed far more evidence to back these claims up. I didn’t like the idea of a quota of women (particularly as the target was only 30%) and felt like many businesses would simply hire a few women to meet the target. I hated the way Morissey insinuated that diversity meant more women and didn’t look at all at any other under-represented groups and I didn’t like her impersonal style of writing. There are a few gems of wisdom scattered through the book but even as a feminist reader I have my limits. 

Rating: Two CEO name drops out of five.

Unengaging, dull and empirically flawed. Perhaps a business student would get more out of it.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! 

TL;DR April Review

Hello Bookworms!

I don’t know what it is about April that sends me into a reading and blogging slump but it seems that every year I unintentionally give myself a month off. Perhaps it’s because everything kicks off in the garden/on the allotment, perhaps it’s the weather warning up that makes me go out more or possibly it’s because April is The Month Of Family Birthdays but anyway, enough excuses. I had shit to do, ok? 😆

April has been pretty cold and wet here, except for a mini heatwave that fooled everyone into thinking that summer was on it’s way. I spent two days frantically digging out summer clothing and dealing with my jungle of a greehouse, only to revert back to wooly jumpers and rain battered plants two days later. 

The house renovation project is turning into a black hole for my finances – last weekend I paid the balance on the kitchen and bathroom, bought a new front door and had it fitted, got the paint to paint it with, bought the skirting board and door architrave and all the bathroom tiles. The bathroom is finally being fitted next week and once that’s done the kitchen will be going in too. There’s still some prep work to be done, plus various other bits that need our attention (boiler, skirting boards, floors, interior doors etc.) so loads to do still. I can’t wait to get that skip ordered!

I’ve been to various places for the aforementioned birthdays, but the best day out was Chatsworth House. 

Me and the non-hubs had a lovely walk round the grounds and house, which was huge and really interesting. If the house looks familiar, it’s where the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was filmed. Sadly, Mr Darcy did not make an appearance. If you’re in the Derbyshire area, I’d highly recommend a visit. 

In terms of my blog, I only made two posts which is quite frankly rubbish and has put me behind with everything, including my Les Mis read along. I got through 11 chapters last night though (which is more impressive than its sounds – they’re really short). My ARC’s now have three books outstanding so I need to get on it. 

I wrote a fun discussion post called Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would which I hasten to point out meant #not all men but was intended to highlight lazy stereotyping and needless descriptions of women’s bodies/attractiveness by authors of both genders. Have a go and let me know in the comments!

I also wrote one solitary book review (it was a good one though) – here’s the TL;DR three sentence summary:

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An absolutely enthralling novella with later upon layer of symbolism. An absolute must read forgotten classic. 🌟Five out of five🌟

So that’s April wrapped up! It seems like every month I say this, but hopefully by the end of May I’ll have a bathroom fitted (and maybe a kitchen too!)

How was your April? What will you be up to next month? ? Let me know in the comments!

Much love,

Lucinda xxx

In The News: Describe Yourself Like A Make Author Would

It all kicked off (again) on Twitter recently when, during a debate about the #ownvoices hashtag, an unnamed male author claimed that he could write an authentic female protagonist. According to YA author Gwen Katz, this is an actual quote from his actual novel:

 “I sauntered over, certain he noticed me. I’m hard to miss, I’d like to think – a little tall (but not too tall), a nice set of curves if I do say so myself, pants so impossibly tight that if I had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date…”

THOUGHT NO WOMAN EVER.

This sparked a new Twitter challenge by Whitney Reynolds (host of the I Haven’t Seen That podcast) to describe yourself like a male author would – and the responses are as hilarious as they are depressing. Everything from:

“her undersized bosom did not suggest the surprise that on the other side of her was a sizeable ass. He began to think of her body as a mullet. She was business in the front and a party in the back.” 

 to

“Something about porcelain skin because Asian, something about petite and submissive because Asian, something about silky raven Asian hair, something about exotic and something about almond shaped eyes because Asian.”

Now obviously, not all male writers describe their female protagonists in such a way and unfortunately, I’ve read a fair few novels where female authors have described female characters using such sexist terms (most recently The Confession by Jo Spain – read my review here) but I’m sure we’re all familiar with this kind of crap (if not, read pretty much anything by Stephen King, especially his earlier work). 

So the question is, how sick are you of female characters being described by the attractiveness of their anatomy? Are you offended by lazy cultural stereotypes? 

And most importantly…

How would a sexist author describe YOU?

For the record, here’s my version:

It was her large baby blue eyes and long blonde hair that first caught his attention. He casually swept his gaze across her petite frame, disappointed that she wasn’t showing more cleavage. His interest lessened further as he took in her wide hips and unusually chunky calves. Yes, she should definitely be showing off more of her breasts to detract from those tree trunks, he thought as he pretended to skim her CV. He assumed she had qualifications but there was only one skill she really needed – apart from the ability to make a good cup of tea, of course – and it definitely wouldn’t be on her resumé.