I have mixed feelings about this book. I bought it because it was buy one get one half price with Caroline Criado Perez's 'Invisible Women', which is excellent but I'm reading slowly because I keep getting so angry with how badly women are served in so many ways. This is particularly true of anything that touches on health care, as for to many of us have experienced.
'100 Nasty Women of History' isn't making me at all angry, but I am finding it's general tone slightly irritating. On the one hand it's a decent potted history of 100 women who represent a decent cross section of history and nationalities, though I'm not sure how lost to history Nell Gwynn, Josephine Baker, Sappho, Margery Kempe, Artemisia Gentileschi, Hedy Lamarr, Mary Wollstonecraft, George Sand or Constance Markievicz are.
There are many more names that I'm familiar with but concede might be slightly more obscure depending on your reading preferences, and I'm thinking that depending on those reading preferences and your personal background you might be very familiar with other names here that I am not. On the whole this is a small quibble though. The bigger problem is Hannah Jewell's insistence on using millennial slang. She includes an 'old people glossary' to explain herself at the end of the book which is probably meant to be funny, but feels vaguely patronising.
It leaves me unsure at who exactly the book is primarily aimed at - presumably fellow millennials who have somehow reached well into their 20's without knowing who Artemisia Gentileschi or Mary Wollstonecraft are. It's an approach that might work reasonably well as a column, or on Buzzfeed where Jewell used to work but which grates after reading a couple of entries. My guess is that it's going to date really quickly. If it wasn't for an entry on Empress Theodora (specifically, there are a couple of others that might raise eyebrows too) I might pass this on to the daughters of some of my friends, but as it is I think they might be a bit to young.
Otherwise it's more or less in the Horrible Histories mold, but I'd have hoped that by the time Empress Theodora's reputed circus act was appropriate reading for kids they were ready to read something a bit more substantial, and not a book which basically keeps repeating that men are shit and such babies.
But then it is a decent overview of a decent cross section of women's history, and my education didn't include many figures who weren't white and western, especially when it comes to women so I have learnt a lot from this (although not about Theodora who features in some splendid Byzantine mosaics so is well known to generations of art history students). It's a book that's worth a look, but read a couple of entries before buying it because I'm not sure I'd have come home with it if I had.
This sounds like a book where the tone wouldn't work for me either. I also found Invisible Women infuriating. I've read a lot of books about unfair or unjust things, but the pervasiveness of the problems that book describes particularly got me down.ReplyDelete
It's why I'm reading it in fits and starts. I think it's worth knowing about, and reading along Invisible Women lines has been helpful if depressing, it certainly doesn't leave much space for complacence. 100 Nasty Women of History maybe does feel a bit complacent, but in terms of the authors humour which overall I've found alienating. I feel like the balance is off on it and if it had been toned down a little it would have much broader appeal. As it is I probably wouldn't recommend it for anyone much under 14, or over 25, which seems an unreasonably narrow target age group.Delete
I read Invisible Women back in March, and found it somewhat depressing, infuriating and fascinating all at the same time. I think 100 Nasty Women of History sounds even more so.ReplyDelete
Invisible Women is all those things, but important, and by comparison a good example of Caroline Criado Perez using somewhat similar humour to underline some of her points but keeping it under control so it doesn't overwhelm what she's saying. With 100 Nasty Women I could imagine each chapter on it's own as a funny sketch in a comedy show, or similar, but each chapter is at most only a few pages long and I found the style wore thin really fast. It has plenty of admirers though and I'm all for anything that encourages interest in women's history and gets more names out there so I hope I don't sound overly negative about it.Delete