Category Archives: Feminist

Only ever yours by Louise O’Neill – a comment

I recently had a brief departure from my usual crime fiction reading and on a whim downloaded Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill. Suffice it to say this book made me pretty mad (not the writing I hasten to add, this was a very good book) but I wouldn’t call this a book review, more a rant.

For those who haven’t heard of it Only Ever Yours is essentially a scarier take on the Stepford Wives concept. The main character is Frieda and we see the world through her eyes. A world where women are created purely to compete with each other in order to make themselves the best choice when it comes time for the men to pick their wives. Whilst this is obviously a piece of fiction that is written for Young Adults to show them the bleakness of an existence like the girls in the book, it is worrying just how close this could be to real life.
The only goal in life for Frieda and her friends is to be the perfect women – to be skinny, be fertile and always agree with a man. Well that’s me being thrown on the pyre then, I eat too much pizza, I had a hysterectomy at 37 and the only time I’ve ever been known to be agreeable is if the question is Do you want another glass of wine? In fact I read this book whilst having a glass of wine and a meal on my own in my favourite Manchester pizza place.
Obviously the portrayal in the book is an exaggerated version of life, but the scary thing is I don’t think society is really that far removed from this. Everywhere you look on the tv or magazines the world is being told to diet or obsessing on some celebrity baby. Even at our age if you go out with a group of women the topics of conversation will inevitably include children, dieting and partners (always in a favourable way of course)

Throughout the book the women see themselves as property; they have no ambitions other than to be a companion to the men. For those who already know their rankings aren’t high enough to be chosen as a companion they aspire to be concubines. What kind of a world is it where women want to be less than they really are? We should encourage women to be strong not skinny, passionate not docile, to learn and have interests, to be proud to be a whole person in their own right not waste their lives in the hope of becoming someone’s ‘other half’ (A phrase I really hate – I’m a whole person just as Mr F is a whole person we go halves on our rent not on our personality)

It made me really sad this book had to be written but fingers crossed it has some good outcomes. Only Ever Yours should be a standard must read for all young people. Hopefully then more people will get mad and start realising that there is more to life than trying to shrink themselves – there’s pizza and wine for a start.

 

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A Christmas Tragedy

Its Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. A classic line sung first by Paul Young and then latterly on the much ignored Band Aid II by Kylie Minogue. However judging by my trip into town yesterday I would disagree and say there is much to be scared of, and not just the fact I seem to have been forced to listen to that song every time I’ve set foot inside a shop since mid September.

Never mind the fact that at this time of the year the world goes mad and suddenly everyone is buying up brandy snaps as though their life depended on it. There is another recently discovered scary issue around. Namely the tragedy that is the complete destruction of the humble colouring book. I braced the mad rush of final shoppers yesterday to try and find two colouring books for presents. A simple task you might think? Well you’d be wrong.

Firstly all I wanted was a normal standard picture book for young children to colour in. Just the normal colouring books I had as a child with pictures of dogs and cats and houses. I didn’t want stickers or activities or doodles (that must be the cleverest money making idea since the shampoo companies started putting the words rince and repeat on the bottles, just put some blank paper together, call it a doodle book on the cover and charge twenty times the cost of the paper)

Secondly and most scary of all, when did colouring become a gender specific activity? Everywhere I looked the only colouring books I could find were labelled either girls colouring books and were full of pictures of princesses and castles, or boys colouring books full of cars and tractors. Talk about pushing gender stereotyping. Why do simple activities such as colouring need to be ruined? I realise it is a money making scam and people will unconsciously fall for it. I also know that in the scheme of things it’s quite a minor issue but it really bugged me. It is as stupid as the pink lego thing (read about them here) Well it didn’t work on me, and I walked away without purchasing any of them.

I realise that people have to try and reinvent the wheel. Essentially that’s what crime writers do all the time. There are a finite number of ways to kill someone and also motives for doing so, yet writers are able to take this idea and revamp it thousands and thousands of times. That’s a good thing for someone like me, who wants to read this revamped idea over and over again. Yet surely this revamping wasn’t needed for colouring books, to a six year old a picture to colour is about the actual act of colouring rather than the picture itself. I don’t think they really care how it is packaged. I bought a gift for a friend’s daughter this weekend and she was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the actual gift. (It was very nice wrapping paper though) There is certainly no need to give children different pictures to colour depending on whether they are a boy or girl.

Anyway despite my mini strop with the woman in Waterstones who asked if I’d found everything I wanted. All is not lost and the receivers of the colouring books are not to miss out. Luckily the sister works for a large retail brand (in the interest of not advertising let’s just say, think of a posh pound shop where you can buy a full size dancing Father Christmas and you’ll know where I mean) and she saved the day with some nice general colouring books with no stickers or activities in sight. She can therefore now be known as the Sister who saved Christmas. Of course is she could also work out a way of banning shops from playing Christmas music before the 23rd December then she really would be a superhero.

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Gone by Lisa Gardner – a review

I’m a big fan of Lisa Gardner’s books and on the whole this one did not disappoint. In this story we see the return of ex-profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife Raine Connor. She is also an ex-officer and now helps out befriending young people in care.  The husband and wife team have previously been working as consultants to the FBI, and are still trying to get over a particularly shocking murder case. This has lead Raine back into alcoholicism, of which she is in denial. Quincy has left her in the hope it will shock her into sobriety. Unfortunately Raine goes missing, and as you can expect it’s down to Quincy and his daughter to track her down. Along the way they encounter kidnappings, arson, murder, hash farms and bombings.

The story itself has the usual twists and turns we expect from Lisa Gardner and is not just a straight murder ‘who dunnit’. I didn’t guess the perpetrator and was surprised at the reveal. However once I knew who it was, it actually became quite obvious and I was surprised it hadn’t occurred to me earlier.

As with all of Lisa Gardner’s books they are jam packed with feisty female characters which I always enjoy. The women are always just as likely to run into a burning building as the men in these books, and the cast of characters in this one is no exception. I did find it slightly odd reading though, as the new female negotiator that was brought in had my name, right down to the i not y which is probably the first time I’ve ever seen it in print!

Although I did enjoy this book, and felt that there were some clever red herrings within, I don’t feel this was one of her best books. The story for some reason just felt a little flat. I like the way it moved around between the varying characters viewpoints, giving an insight into the emotions of all of them. However for some reason I felt that the middle of the story seemed to drag a bit. Its difficult to explain fully without giving away the plot, but at times you just wanted to shout at characters with frustration. There also seemed to be a few inconsistencies which bugged me. Not least of which was Kimberly running 6 miles in 30 minutes, that would be rather impressive.

Overall, I would say its very hard to find fault with anything Lisa Gardner does, and despite my small reservations I would definitely recommend this book. I think that, like anything else, authors often get better with practice. Lisa Gardner has written another 8 books since this one, and looking back I’ve read most of them. I haven’t however read her earlier ones so maybe I am just used to her current writing style. I shall have to go back to her roots and start at the beginning of the series at some point, just to see how it evolves. Something to look forward to!

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Catch me by Lisa Gardner – a review

Last week I read ‘Catch me’ by Lisa Gardner. I’ve had this book on my too read pile for months and as she unfortunately was not appearing at the festival this year I’ve held off on reading it. As they say though good things come to those who wait, and this book didn’t disappoint.

This is the latest in the D.D. Warren series, she’s now a mother and living with her partner Alex who teaches crime scene analysis which makes for some interesting dinner time conversations. D.D is approached by Charlie who believes that she has four days left to live as both her best friends from school were murdered on the 21st (4 days hence) therefore she must be next. After surviving an abusive childhood she isn’t going to go down without a fight and has spent a year learning to box, shoot and run in an attempt to foil her killer.

Despite police investigations hitting a dead end, D. D wants to look into the cases further and Detective O offers to help. Alongside this potential murder case someone seems to be committing their own personal clean up campaign and hunting down paedophiles, a campaign which Charlie becomes the main suspect in.

As I’ve mentioned before all three of the main female characters were exactly what I want in a novel. They were feisty, clever, strong and independant. Even D.D’s motherhood didn’t slow her down, and unlike many other books that introduce babys into the mix we didn’t have to read loads of monologues about how guilty she felt about leaving the baby blah blah blah. She loves her job, and she loves her baby and will cope with both – very refreshing if you ask me!

I have read alot of Lisa Gardner books (and was lucky enough to see her interviewed at last years festival) and I think they are all excellent. Half way through the book I started to think that I knew who had done it, and that it was going to be a bit of a disappointing and easy result. However as with all good mysteries there were more twists and turns than an average person such as myself can possibly hope to keep up with. Although I thought at the beginning I knew who it was, even though I’d been correct by that point I’d convinced myself that it was someone else!

The story is fast paced and is a great read that keeps you guessing and reguessing. For those who have read previous Lisa Gardner books some old characters make an appearance such as retired profiler Quincy, however it works just as well as a stand alone novel for people who haven’t not yet encountered Detective D.D Warren.

All in all a fantastic read, and I’d definitely recommend Lisa Gardner to anyone!

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If looks could kill

This weekend I watched the film the ‘Iron Lady’. Now regardless of your political standpoint I think you would be hard pushed to say this wasn’t a good film. A story of a woman who becomes the first female prime minister in the UK, her eventual downfall, and throughout it all her enduring relationship with her husband (Let’s forget the bit where she practically forgets about her children whilst she’s busy following her political ambitions, ignore the fact the film seems to gloss over much of the politics and the actual issues during her leadership, and not dwell on the fact she didn’t actually employ any other women in her cabinet, other than those who cleaned it) – the bit the film does include is pretty inspiring stuff!

This ‘story’ had a female lead character who women everywhere could be proud of. Right from the point that she gets engaged she is clear about what she wants. She isn’t interested in being someone who chooses to stay at home whilst expecting her husband to look after her. She’s going to look after herself and she wants to make a difference in the world not just in her own life. One of my favourite quotes was,

‘It used to be that people wanted to do something, now people want to be someone’

Completely true! The world is so self centred that very few of us do things purely for the sake of helping others or being proud of ourselves, its always about what you get out of it or how you look to other people. People spend more time worrying about what they look like, and what they can put on their status rather than taking any action about things. Another result of the facebook brainwash if you ask me!

If you picked up Margaret Thatcher and put her in a crime novel (again I hasten to add, go with me and ignore the politics!) she would be the kind of protagonist I would like. She wouldn’t wait around for a white knight on horseback to come and save her from the deranged serial killer, she’d have swung her handbag, glared at them and given them a lecture on how serial killers should pay the same poll tax as shop lifters.

That’s one of the things I like about Lisa Gardner books. In the one I am currently reading there are three main women involved, and all of them could to turn American ‘kick ass’. I’m always drawn to books by female writers in the hope they are going to have smart, clever, independent women, rather than poor defenceless victims. Give me a Chelsea Cain novel over a Mills and Boon anyday. To me a powerful female serial killer just seems much more exciting than a ‘lady of the house falls in love with the stable boy’ type of story.

However we all know that one women’s feminist icon can be another women’s serial murderer. It takes all sorts to make the world go round, and just as it would make life very dull if everyone had the same opinion over Margaret Thatcher and politics, it wouldn’t be much fun if we all read the same books!

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