Reputation

Whilst it is no secret that I have always longed to be Elizabeth Bennett, I recognise it takes a substantial leap of imagination to regard me as a suitable Austen heroine. I may be witty, wise and well-read (stop laughing at the back there) but not many folk would describe me as ladylike or consider me capable of holding my own at the local County cotillion. So introduce me to a Regency heroine with just a dash more rebellion in her soul than our dear Lizzie and I may just fall head over heels in love. Enter stage right Georgiana Ellers, the protagonist of Reputation. She is my new obsession and I know you will love her too.

When her parents decide to move to the coast, Georgiana is unceremoniously dumped on her aunt and uncle, where she leads a stiflingly dull life of embroidery and early nights. Desperate to ease her boredom, a chance encounter with controversial socialite Frances Campbell sees her thrust into an exciting new world of unchaperoned events, serial drinking and a surprising variety of drugs. (Jane Austen must be turning in her grave). But as the novelty of this alternative existence begins to wear off – unlike the hangovers – our heroine must choose which path she really wants to follow and who her true friends are.

Described as the love child of Bridgerton and Fleabag, this book is brilliantly funny. Croucher creates an expert pastiche of an Austen novel, skilfully poking fun at the very elements of the genre that this book ultimately espouses. Of course there is a dark and brooding love interest (I want to marry him immediately) and of course there is a scene where he is both muddy and dripping wet (seriously, now please) but the author manages to both parody and embrace this set piece in such a way that it is still charmingly romantic. Georgiana is fiesty and quick of wit, filling these pages with great humour, and is surrounded by a cast of other superbly created characters. From Mr Burton, her reclusive uncle, to Jeremiah Russell, the charming cad courting Miss Campbell, each individual is expertly painted on the page.  Behind this humour the book also has great substance, dealing with serious issues including the societal condemnation of homosexuality back then and the utterly impossible role women had to play. Croucher has expertly balanced satire and social commentary in a way that makes this novel an absolute gem.

I have been known to exude significant snobbery in the past towards those who think they have a right to bastardise my Jane (I wrote my dissertation on her, therefore we are clearly besties) but this is an exception. Witty, wise and well-written, I thoroughly recommend that you read this. In fact I insist. You won’t regret it.

The Treehouse

The most disturbing epiphany in any adult life is the moment when you realise every cliché your parents told you is actually true.  I absolutely shouldn’t burn the candle at both ends, it probably will all end in tears (whatever “it” is) and if the wind changes whilst I am pulling a silly face, I am definitely going to be stuck like that for good. (I haven’t fully tested this last one, but am not taking any chances).  But without doubt the most accurate of all their prophecies was the constant reminder that I was living the best days of my life, free from the commitment, responsibility and financial woes that would beset the years to come.  Looking back now from the heady heights of adulthood (1 out of 5, do not recommend) I can absolutely see their point. I am easily drawn to romantic reminiscence of those early recollections and feel a solidarity to friends from my childhood that has never been equalled in more recent years. As such, I felt a real connection with The Treehouse by John Hilton, a short story that expertly explores how it feels when those two distinct phases of our lives collide.
 
Following a call to tell him one of his closest childhood friends has taken an overdose, Ben arrives back in his home town to face the fall-out of Billy’s addiction.  Crowded by the ghosts of the past on every side, a series of flashbacks familiarise us with the 4 youngsters who once claimed the treehouse as their beloved base, with Ben reliving in vivid detail some of the best and worst times they spent together as children.  Now the past and present are colliding, our protagonist has some tough decisions to make about his future, with the lives of those around him also at stake. Adulthood doesn’t get tougher than this.
 
This is a beautifully written novella, with language so rich that in just a few simple words the author can evoke a thousand images.  Despite it only being 100 pages long, I felt I was a part of Ben’s adolescent tribe and had personally witnessed the events that bound them so tightly together.  The treehouse itself is a powerful symbol of the steadfast loyalty they feel for each other and I particularly liked the way this motif was used both literally and metaphorically as the story progressed. It doesn’t matter that we have no idea about Ben’s life outside of his home town; it doesn’t matter that we are missing all the minutiae of the intervening years: Hilton has provided such a skilful snapshot of the way these lives intertwine that the gaps only serve to tighten those bonds.  Don’t be deceived by the fact this is a quick and simple read – it is a haunting story that will stay with me for some time to come.  
 
Whilst I am grateful that none of my own childhood acquaintances have succumbed to the events experienced by Ben and his friends, I still feel that pull of protectiveness towards those who were there when I was growing up and would be there for them in a heartbeat. The Treehouse is a hard-hitting and emotional tale that beautifully encapsulates that power of the past to hold us to account in the present and is likely to resonate powerfully with many of us.  I highly recommend this.
 

Thunderpaws and the Tower of London

Whenever I was ill as a child, my mum would always make up stories to distract me from feeling poorly.  Having wrapped me up lovingly on the sofa with a pillow and blankets, squeezed me some fresh orange juice (or if I was really lucky, heated me up some Ribena) and gently stroked the fringe away from my fevered brow, she would then announce it was time to hear the next big adventure of Fred the dog. Nothing made me happier. So given this intense childhood attachment to a talking hound, it is probably no surprise I was immediately drawn to the premise of Thunderpaws and the Tower of London, blessed as it is with a feisty feline hero and narrator.  Little did I realise, however, quite how much this story would demand my undivided attention and it would be fair to say that this is the first time since I was 10 that I have fallen head over heels with a protagonist that isn’t human.  This is an incredibly innovative and exciting tale that will appeal to a wide-ranging audience and I cannot recommend it enough.
 
Teufel (or Thunderpaws, as he is also known) wakes up one day to find he is no longer a simple church cat living by the sea but is now in residence at the Tower of London.  Not only does this mean he has a whole new breed of bird to contend with (he soon finds that those pesky ravens give as good as they get), but his new home is also filled with unexpected surprises, not least the magical mouse sent to tell him his destiny is to save the world.  Turns out the Tower is haunted by any number of ghosts, both famous (Sir Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes, to name but two) and feline, and each has their own agenda to pursue.  If our hero is to fulfil his destiny, he must quickly work out who to trust and needless to say this leads to some pretty exciting adventures along the way.  I don’t want to say too much and spoil the story, but I think 2 cats commandeering a speed boat and careening down the Thames in the middle of the night may be one of my favourite ever scenes of modern literature.
 
There is so much to love about this tale, it’s hard to know where to start.  It is chock full of historical detail about the Tower and those who were murdered there without ever feeling like a history lesson; the illustrations are stunning and truly add value, complementing the story beautifully.  One of the things that makes Thunderpaws so innovative is the way the words appears on the page, with the actual text often reflecting the actions of our narrator – for example, if he leaps onto a table, the letters of that word leap with him.  Rather than feeling like a cheap trick to just try and be clever, this is actually a powerful narrative device that draws you even further into his world.  But the ultimate power of this book lies in the characterisation of the hero himself.  Smart, funny and incredibly cat-like, Teufel is portrayed with such feline finesse that Housden achieves something really special: he is both anthropomorphised to the degree he is capable of taking on some quite terrifying enemies, yet he also never loses his true cat-like nature.  Both the description of his actions and the way he behaves have been crafted so perfectly I almost want to stand up and applaud.
 
As an (almost) middle-aged adult I never once felt like I was reading something below my cognitive ability despite this sounding like a children’s tale, in fact the complexities of the plot sometimes meant I had to go back and reread a section.  Whilst marketed as being appropriate for those from 9 to 90, I would suggest the scary parts mean it is more suited to those a little more mature (I was hiding under the duvet at one point) much like the later Harry Potter books. This is the first book of a series and I am definitely excited to see what Teufel has in store next: if it is as funny and unique as this, I will be first in line to purchase.

Admonition

One of the rarely acknowledged risks of being a book blogger is being asked to review something that you really, really don’t like. Being honest about the fact you haven’t enjoyed something – whilst also being respectful of an author who has no doubt invested their heart and soul into their words – is  a bit of a taboo and one of the biggest challenges to a blogger’s integrity. So when I was asked to read a copy of Admonition by Chris Throsby, who sadly passed away soon after the novel was finished, I was apprehensive how hard it would be to comment on its literary value without disrespecting Chris or his family.  Truth is, I shouldn’t have worried.  From the very first page this story had me hooked and not only did I enjoy it, I would rate it as one of the best works of fiction I have devoured this year. Admonition is a must-read for anyone with a thirst for historical literature.

When a poverty-stricken woman is forced to have another child in late 1700s England, she christens her baby Admonition as a form of chastisement to her husband – a reminder that he had promised never to get her pregnant again. From a young age Adie comes to see her name as a powerful curse, as those she is close to suffer repeatedly from tragedy and loss.  From a terrible sink hole that swallows her family home to her brother’s sudden disappearance to the other side of the world, events overtake our heroine as she reaches adulthood and is compelled to choose a path that has dire consequences for her future.  Told initially through the voices of those around her (primarily William, her brother, and Jabez, her protector) then later given a voice of her own, Adie shines brightly at the centre of a meticulously researched and powerfully evocative representation of 18th century life, where people had to work hard just to survive each day.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this novel is the intricate layers of story-telling which interweave to build a rich picture of the world Adie lives in: every character we encounter has a personal tale to share, which leaps vibrantly from the page to captivate the reader’s imagination.  I couldn’t help hearing an echo of Dickens in the detailed descriptions and skilfully crafted characterisation, and at times forgot this is written by a modern author: the writing would undoubtedly feel at home in some faded red leather-bound tome, on pages eroded by the passage of centuries.   Not only have I learnt a great deal about a period of history I am utterly ignorant of – most fascinatingly about the salt smuggling trade and the way those caught were transported to Australia or even hung – but I have also recognised whilst time may march on, the complexity and corruption of human interaction never truly changes.

My only criticism of the whole thing is the way the book has been marketed – I would strongly advise against reading the blurb on the back if you don’t want to know exactly what will happen before you even start – which does not do the final product any justice.  Admonition is a beautifully written, engaging and evocative novel that leaves me saddened Chris is not with us to produce any further work.  With these words he has left behind a hell of a legacy and I highly recommend giving this novel a go. 

Source

Having been unable to see my sister for the last 3 years, you have no idea how excited I was to spend 4 days with her last weekend.  There is something about a sibling relationship that just isn’t replicated in any other connection I have in my life and she understands me in ways no-one else ever will.  (She also laughs at all my jokes, but that might just be a pity thing).  We had such an incredible time together and it made me realise just how much we are shaped by the people from our past and how impossible it is to detach from what has gone before.  At no point is this more apparent than when we return to childhood haunts and are confronted head on by the memories that made us.  It was therefore a truly timely decision to read The Source by Rosemary Johnston, which encapsulates skillfully the emotional rollercoaster of reliving experiences from our formative years.  This is a deceptively simple short story that tackles some really big issues and has certainly left me with lots to think about.
 
Following the death of her mother, Kate has returned to Ireland to clear her childhood home, with her daughter Lavinia in tow.  Our protagonist clearly had a challenging childhood, with an absent father and increasingly aggressive mother, and Kate left as soon as she could to build a whole new life in London. Being back means facing not only her parent’s possessions and the memories these evoke but also Brian, an old flame who is fighting his own demons from the past. We soon discover just how differently these two characters have responded to the trauma they experienced whilst young, with the tale unfurling against a backdrop of desolation that shrouds life in this small and seemingly claustrophobic town.
 
Unsurprisingly one of the key themes is the parent / child relationship, with the author painting a stark contrast between Kate’s damaging relationship with her mother and the healthier, more trusting connection with Lavinia.  There is also a strong emphasis on the potency of language and how fascinating it can be to explore the meaning behind the sounds we arbitrarily use to communicate.  But beyond this is a far more powerful message about the way words tether us to the world: Kate bonds with her father over a dictionary and their shared passion for understanding how vocabulary develops; in adulthood she teaches English to refugees to empower them and provide them a place in their new society.  Our protagonist acknowledges there are other ways of connecting with the etheriality of existence – after all, for her mother it was all about nature and working the land – but worries Lavinia has yet to find her earthly tether.  Johnston beautifully articulates our visceral urge to connect with life and this resonated with me strongly given my own love of language. My passion for words has given me my place in the world, much like Kate, and I felt this was powerfully portrayed.
 
Unlike the happy memories I share with my sister, this book is suffused with a deep sadness that touched me greatly. It would be hard to describe this as an uplifting tale but it is very well-written and has given me much food for thought.  Making peace with the past is not always easy, but Source reminded me that we have choices even when we think we don’t. If you are looking for a quick, powerful read that makes you think, this is definitely the story for you and I strongly encourage you to give it a go.   
 
 

Love, Hope

I always struggle at this time of year, Bookaholics.  There is a distinct chill in the misty morning air, the evening darkness creeps ever closer and no matter how old I get I always have that “oh my god I have to go back to school and I didn’t do any homework over summer” feeling that I just can’t shake (which is deeply ironic given I was such a teacher’s pet and always did everything at the start of the holidays). At times like these I tend to reach for novels I know will bring comfort to my growing gloom and I had high hopes that the latest publication from Juliet Ann Conlin would be the absorbing escapism I needed.  It was. Love, Hope was the literary equivalent of a massive soothing hug and was exactly what the doctor ordered.
 
Hope and Janey become best friends at the age of 8, when they meet at a music academy for gifted performers.  We witness their friendship evolve through the usual teenage trials and tribulations but one thing remains constant: their shared goal of attending music college together then joining an orchestra to travel the world.  They are both on track to achieve this dream when tragedy strikes Hope and everything instantly changes, spinning their lives off in opposite directions.  What follows is a beautiful and touching account of the way loss shapes us all so differently and how human connection truly is the meaning of life.
 
The whole story is told through a series of letters, emails and text messages sent between a cast of distinctive characters, all of whom I am left wishing I knew in real life.  This is an incredibly clever format choice as the author skilfully builds a multi-dimensional picture of Hope’s life through a range of disparate voices: we have Autumn, our protagonist’s little sister; Harry, Hope’s employer; and Arnold, the elderly gentleman she starts writing to after Autumn suggests they could be company for one another.  Arnold is living in sheltered accommodation following the death of his wife and is struggling with his own response to loss, and it is this connection more than any that reminds us how much easier it is to open up about our lives to strangers than to those we are close to.  Conlin has a strong track record for creating heart-breakingly powerful interpersonal relationships (especially when it comes to sisters) and this book is no exception.  If anything, the format allows her to take this to a whole new level – in removing Hope’s voice for a period of time after the tragedy first happens, the impact of this event on the protagonist becomes all the more poignant.  This is writing about human experience on a truly exceptional level and I was gripped.
 
Despite the fact it deals with some undeniably challenging topics, Love, Hope is an incredibly uplifting and touching tome which is a perfect antidote to way I have been feeling.  As a reader I was left with the same warmth and comfort I feel from consuming books by Beth O’Leary and this certainly deserves to be just as popular and well-loved as The Flat Share. Truth is I feel sorry for whatever novel I pick up next – it’s going to have to be pretty special to follow this one.  Now forgive me, I am off to bulk buy this as a Christmas present for everyone I know…
 

Pimps Whores and Patrons of Virtue

One of the things I missed the most during lockdown last year was meeting random strangers in the pub. I don’t mean in the Tinder hook-up sense (shudder) nor even just a good old fashioned blind date, but refer instead to those unexpected encounters when catching up with a friend over a few drinks.  I have been commandeered on countless occasions over the years in this way, from the woman who shared photos of her dead relatives whilst weeping softly into her cider, to the elderly gentleman who promised my friend and I a starring role in his forthcoming autobiography, and even the man who swore his child was the next David Beckham.  (We had to watch said 10 year old mess around with a football for ages whilst making polite noises).  Human connection on this level rarely fails to leave an impression and this is exactly how I feel about Pimps Whores and Patrons of Virtue by SJ Manning.  From the very first page the conversational and intriguing prose made me feel like the author had plonked himself down next to me in some local bar and was proceeding to share with me his every last thought on every possible subject. This book is unlike anything I have ever read before.
 
Our author has certainly led a fascinating life.  Brought up in communist Romania, his family ultimately settled in LA where he became a highly successful businessman, and what follows is a series of essays on diverse topics based on his experiences, from class to high school nerds and even politics.  Having arrived in the States with only 45 words of English, Manning is a now self-acknowledged linguistic artist, playfully wielding an extensive vocabulary as he delivers his multiple musings – you can literally feel his love of language bursting off the page. This is so stylistically unique that it took a chapter or two to adapt, but once immersed in his eclectic elucidation (I fear it may be catching) I truly felt like I was inside his head.  I would definitely suggest reading this text in as few sittings as possible, so you too find yourself drawn aboard the Good Ship Manning and swept away on the tumultuous tide of his cerebral ramblings. With total immersion comes a truly visceral human connection which thrills and appalls in equal measure.
 
What really brings this book alive are the anecdotes he peppers the text with and I was a little sad there weren’t more of these.  My favourite is Uncle Ugene, who turns up one day when the author is a child claiming to be his relative and subsequently lives with his family for years despite the fact no one really knows who he is, closely followed by anecdotes about Manning’s father that are so vividly captured you feel like you have shaken the man’s hand yourself.   Story-telling is the author’s forte and I can imagine he is an engaging public speaker.
 
Like any man of opinions, some of his ramblings are controversial, but I liked the book despite not always being in harmony with his world view.  This is an exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, often extremely unusual rollercoaster ride through one man’s brain and more than compensated for the lack of random pub encounters over the last year. Now, who’s getting the next round in?
 

Aria

Despite studying both GCSE and A-Level History, my knowledge of world events over the centuries is shockingly poor.  I can name all of Henry VIII’s wives (although that can be attributed more to Six the musical than my studies) and have a relatively decent understanding of World War 2 (at least from the Allied perspective), but beyond that I am worryingly ignorant.  Some of this I blame on the limitations of the British education syllabus; some I blame on my own choice to do a straight English degree at university without a second major in History.  Whatever the reason, the older I get the more I want to understand the context of current events, and reading fiction is definitely one of the most engaging ways to explore how the past has shaped the present.  Whilst I initially had some reservations about Aria – unsure if a sweeping saga covering the 30 years running up to the Iranian revolution was really my thing – I absolutely loved this novel by Nazanine Hozar and could not put it down.
 
Our story centres on Aria, abandoned as a new born baby by her mother on the streets of Tehran and adopted by Behrouz who discovers her there.  Her childhood is punctuated by extremes: profound affection from her new father despite his frequent absence; relentless punishment from Zahra, forced reluctantly to take on the role of surrogate mum; and the innocent loyalty of Kamran her neighbourhood friend. Following a chance encounter in the local marketplace, Aria finds herself thrust suddenly from a life of poverty to one of luxury, moving to live with Fereshteh, Zahra’s old employer. Hozar beautifully balances the detail of our heroine’s restless road to adulthood with Iran’s rocky road to revolution, with political and religious discontent bubbling in the background throughout, and both come to a climax as the novel reaches its conclusion.
 
There are many factors that make this book so readable. Aria is just one of a chorus of complex and unpredictable characters, shaped by both trauma and circumstance, who hook you into each part of the story with a powerful sense of personal pain.   Themes of social inequality, religious division and gender discrimination are all explored skilfully without impinging on the narrative thrust.  However for me Hozar’s most impressive accomplishment is the delivery of an epic that is not of epic length, with the plot never suffering in terms of pace or structure from this shorter form.  On finishing the story I was emotionally drained and felt like I had lived through 30 years of trials and tribulations side by side with the heroine, yet this is achieved in a relatively short 448 pages.  As I headed towards the final section, I wondered quite how the tale would conclude and feared it would leave me feeling short-changed, but the ending is beautiful and very poignant. This book is quite a discovery.
 
I am glad I set aside my reservations to explore something outside of my comfort zone and this has certainly whet my appetite to learn more about Iranian history.  Whilst I may not have the aid of catchy musical numbers and dance moves to help me gain that knowledge, I look forward to discovering more literature of this type, where I am engaged by characters who take me on a journey well outside of my own experience.  Let’s hope Hozar publishes work soon. In the meantime, this is definitely one to read.

The Servant

As a quiet and introverted child, I frequently found myself yearning to be friends with those inhabiting the books I devoured.  From the fierce feisty feminism of Anne of Green Gables (I longed for auburn hair) to the sun-kissed sensitivity of Elizabeth Wakefield (I wanted a boyfriend like Todd), I would dream of becoming their bosom buddy for life, escaping the real world where nothing exciting ever seemed to happen to me.  As I have grown older this impulse has faded, although the occasional protagonist can still inspire desire: Elizabeth Bennett would undoubtedly make a charming and witty companion (and not just because she could introduce me to Mr Darcy) and who hasn’t wished they had Katniss Everdeen fighting their corner? (I would be hiding somewhere behind her, obviously). But right now, more than anything in the world, I want to be friends with Hannah Hubert, the heroine of The Servant by Maggie Richell-Davies: she is strong, she has a huge heart and she is resilient beyond measure.  Most importantly of all, she is the central character in one of the best books I have read in a long time. I implore you all to buy a copy immediately.
 
The year is 1765 and although our heroine is a mere teenager, she has already experienced more than her fair share of suffering. Having been born in relative comfort, the death of both parents has led to a life in service and her latest employers are far from ideal – hard to please, quick to punish and miserly with the meagre creature comforts they provide.  As if this were not enough, it soon becomes apparent that beneath this hateful behaviour lies mysteries that are even more unsettling, with underhand business dealings taking place right under her nose.  Hannah can’t help but be drawn to investigate what she fears could be happening, realising in horror that her own fate is also at stake, and she soon finds danger closing in on every side.
 
One of the things I loved most about this novel is the way the author has created such vivid and memorable characters.  In addition to Hannah – from whose perspective the tale is told – there are a chorus of other individuals who leap off the page with incredible clarity: Peg, the tenured servant, wizened by childhood injury; Thomas, the gentleman farmer who gently befriends the protagonist as he delivers milk each day; and Jack, the handsome apprentice who makes our heroine’s heart race.  With the simplest of description Richell-Davies skilfully evokes the atmosphere of 18th century London, from the sights to the smells and even the sounds, and I felt truly immersed in Hannah’s world. But the strongest element of this text for me is the way it explores gender roles during a period of history where women had little opportunity to exert their own power.  Even females with money are subject to the whims of men, but as a poor, vulnerable young girl, Hannah is increasingly faced with terrible decisions that must be made just to survive.  The contrast in permissible behaviour for each gender is sickening, as is the judgement and exploitation women face for situations far beyond their control.  It made me both grateful to live in more modern times and alert to the fact so much more still needs to change for the world to be a more equal place.
 
I was sad to reach the last few pages of The Servant and am already missing the comfort of Hannah’s company – would it be too much to hope for a sequel?  This is historical mystery fiction at its very best: well-written, engaging and able to transport you to another world in an instant.  I highly recommend it. I’m now off to plan my ultimate fantasy dinner party – I have a feeling Hannah and Katniss will get on like a house (dress) on fire…

Diary of a Confused Feminist

Having recently moved house, you would not believe the weird and wonderful childhood treasures I have unearthed.  There’s my favourite dinosaur toy from when I was 5 (creatively called “Dino”), the magazine I published with my best friend when I was 10, and a letter I wrote to Jason Donovan declaring my undying love at the age of 12. (I seemed to think telling him I knew every word to every one of his songs was the way to woo him. I can’t imagine why he never replied). But most entertaining of all are my diaries from those terrible teenage years, where I documented in detail every single thought I had on school, boys, friendships, boys, life in general and most of all boys.  (Did I mention boys?)  These texts provide a fascinating insight into my adolescent angst during a period where I was truly beginning to exert my independence and understand my place in the world.  So it is probably unsurprising that from the very first page of Diary of a Confused Feminist by Kate Weston I could recognise my own voice in that of Kat Evans, the young girl whose diary fills the pages.  Aside from the fact our heroine has to deal with the challenges of social media (thank GOD that didn’t exist in my day), this is a piercingly accurate portrayal of teenage trauma that cuts skilfully across the generational divide.
 
Kat wants to be a feminist and is actively exploring ways she can focus on female empowerment, along with her friends Millie and Sam, but quickly learns how complex this can be at a time when hormones are running wild.  Is dressing up for the boy you have a crush on the antithesis of feminism?  Is it wrong to fixate on whether he will call / text? The story is sprinkled with the type of deeply humiliating teenage experiences that we all have hidden in the skeleton closet of our souls.  In an attempt to show solidarity to the #TimesUp campaign, our threesome spray paint this hashtag on the school playground, only to be stopped by the headmaster before they reach the “e” and inadvertently providing a graffiti tribute to the perviest boy in their year, Tim.  As if this isn’t bad enough, whenever her crush comes near Kat loses the ability to function, even accidentally hurling her menstrual cup in his direction on one occasion. The writing is so authentic – and Kat such an incredibly likeable, empathetic and well-rounded heroine – you cannot help but be drawn into her journey as she struggles to understand the world around her.
 
I certainly didn’t have the knowledge of feminism that Kat does when I was her age, and if I did have any sense of it I probably equated it with hairy armpits and shaved heads (thanks, patriarchy). But there are clear echoes of my own memories in her quest to be a better person.  Each day she documents her un-feminist thoughts and is very hard on herself for bitching about other girls, even when bullied by them. (There are whole chunks of my old diaries where I made excuses for those making my life hell at school each day, recognising they must each have their own issues as I cried into my pillow at night). And in all honesty even as an adult feminism is confusing: there are so many schools of intellectual thought associated with it, many of whom are quick to judge others who do not seem to conform to what they think is right.  I too have times when I think I must be a bad feminist (like secretly enjoying being beeped when walking down the road), until I remember there are no hard and fast rules and it is ok to live by my own moral and ethical framework around gender equality.  I have too much patriarchal judgement in my life to beat myself up with my own hypercritical thoughts. Kat finds herself reaching similar conclusions.
 
This book definitely isn’t just for teenagers: as adults we all continue to experience friendship breakdown, the destructive force of self-judgement and anxiety just like Kat and we can all learn something from her journey. I thoroughly recommend this funny, touching and incredibly poignant book.  If nothing else you will come away glad you don’t have to go back to a time when male approval was everything and choosing an outfit was a monumental life decision.  I am so glad not to be that person anymore.
 
Well.  Mostly anyway.