Toddler in tow, Bee Rowlatt embarks on an extraordinary journey in search of the life and legacy of the first celebrity feminist: Mary Wollstonecraft. From the wild coasts of Norway to a naked re-birthing in California, via the blood-soaked streets of revolutionary Paris, Bee learns what drove her hero on and what's been won and lost over the centuries in the battle for equality.
On this biographical treasure hunt she finds herself consulting a witch, a porn star, a quiet Norwegian archivist and the tenants of a blighted council estate in Leeds - getting much more than she bargained for. In her quest to find a new balance between careers and babies, Bee also discovers the importance of celebrating the radiant power of love in all our lives.
- Back Cover Blurb
I'm nineteen, and Paul and Nello are arranging my thong.
- First Sentence, Part One. Chapter One: There's something About Mary
No one else is tottering under a rucksack like a misshapen tortoise whilst pushing a beaming baby in a large buggy.
- Memorable Moment, Page 58
SOURCE ... A Reading Group read.
READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No
MY THOUGHTS ... A perfect read given that March celebrates the International Women's Day and whilst I'm pretty much au fait with the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davison I know next to nothing about Mary Wollstonecraft, the 'Mary' of the title, in whose footsteps the author followed ... sort of.
An OK read, somewhat self indulgent and perhaps more entertaining as a travelogue, but OK.
My main gripes?
Written in three parts, the first is set in Scandinavia, the second, Paris, the third? The third .... California? Hmm! Really?
I felt that, if not exactly knowing more about her, I certainly came away understanding a lot more about the admittedly affluent and privileged Bee Rowlatt and little more about Mary.
Whilst the book touched on many 'feminist' issues (not least of which 'how the feminist perspective accommodates motherhood'), it never quite 'answered' them or at least not in any great depth, leaving me to wonder if perhaps the author had (to use one of my nana's expressions) bitten off more than she could chew; that she wasn't such an expert on Mary as to give (let alone make) any real sense of her life.
The two things to recommend it?
The differing dialogues (that of the author and reader and that of the author and Mary) make this an interesting introduction to Mary. If nothing else it certainly made me eager to know more about her.
Read as a lone reader it was fine but, I think, to read it as a book club read will add a whole other dimension. I'm certainly looking forward to discovering what the others made of it.