Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The third book in the Little House series (the one that would lend its name to the 1970s TV adaptation and ultimately become the name that most people use to refer to the series as a whole), returns to the story of Laura and her family, after focusing on Almanzo Wilder in the second book – I was delighted by the return to the Ingalls family, because the story of Almonso was significantly less appealing to me.

When it started off, it was just as good as the first book – the story of them moving on and finding a new home, and the perils they faced while on their journey, was something that I really enjoyed reading. It managed to successfully capture that same magical feeling that the first book had, and I found myself drawn into the American wilderness with them.

Once they get to the prairie and settle in their new home, they encounter some of the indigenous people who were living in America at the time. At this point, things start to become pretty uncomfortable, because the people who live there are frequently spoken about as if they are lesser than the white settlers, culminating in a scene where somebody comments “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” and is barely condemned for it.

Much of the book is about the tension between the settlers and the native people, and I get that that sort of environment will lead to hateful and negative perceptions. Indeed, at one point, some indigenous people essentially just come in and help themselves to the Ingalls’ supplies, an experience which was no doubt going to be upsetting for the young Laura, and ultimately something that soured her opinions of the native people at large.

Nonetheless, I don’t think it excuses the huge amount of negativity expressed towards the indigenous people throughout the book. Laura’s mother, in particular, comes across as rather unlikeable due to her extremely prejudiced attitude, but it feels like we’re supposed to just accept it as her being overly cautious – her thoughts on the matter, like the statement mentioned above, are never really challenged.

While I definitely think it’s important that this kind of thing is explored and written about accurately, I would have just liked to see the hateful attitudes challenged more, rather than just left to stand… especially in a book for children.

Having said that – I don’t think that the author herself wrote this book intending to come across this way. Throughout the book, her father, Charles, is friendly towards the indigenous people, and tries to encourage everyone to treat them just like everyone else. Laura herself at one point watches them going by and fantasises about living like them and ‘running naked through the fields’ or something like that, which at very least shows that she has some admiration for their way of life.

I guess it’s important to consider it as a product of its time, and to think that the way in which these subjects are written about wouldn’t have seemed controversial at all for the time. Indeed, I have certainly read a lot worse, and I do appreciate that some of the indigenous peoples turned out to be genuinely good people, but it felt more like it was saying “see, they’re not all bad” rather than “these are literally human beings just like us”.

Of course, it’s always going to be a very sensitive subject, especially for people writing first-hand accounts of things they experienced as children, but overall, it did rub me the wrong way more than a few times, and I think a lot of modern readers might struggle with this.

I won’t spoil it, but I did think the ending was pretty good though (and it made me feel less bad about the seemingly insensitive parts), and a part of the story that deals with malaria was also particularly fascinating reading. In the end, it was a book that I enjoyed, even if it did have its flaws – on another positive note, it does also tell the story of an African American doctor who is written about in only positive ways, which is progressive for the time it was written, and even moreso for the time it happened.

While I don’t think that this lives up to the first book, it definitely felt like an improvement over the second. I wonder whether the magical quality of the first book in part comes down to the fact that Laura was so young when she wrote it, but we shall see – I’m cautiously optimistic about the quality of the next book.

Rating: 7.5/10

Buy it here.

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Top 10 Money-saving Tips Amidst the Cost of Living Crisis

The cost of living crisis is making things harder for all of us, so I decided I’d take the time to write a list of ten top pieces of advice for anybody who’s feeling the bite. These are ten easily actionable tips that literally anybody can start doing right away, and which will help you spread every pound a little further.

Eat Less Greggs

It’s fair to say that the average person spends between £50 and £100 on Greggs every single day. It might not sound a lot, but if you cut out those daily Greggs, you’ll actually find yourself with a tasty bit of savings at the end of each month. I found myself with an extra £3,021 each month just by going from having Greggs every day, to just having Greggs every other day.

A hand writing and some keys.

Put the rent up

There are probably going to be hundreds of people who have a roof over their head thanks to you. Your benevolence allows them to live in comfort in exchange for a small amount of their monthly pay check, and they don’t have to pay any of the costs associated with home-ownership either. By increasing the rent on just one of your properties by 25%, you could easily find yourself with a few extra hundreds each month – the cost of living crisis effects us all, and you should feel no guilt about doing this.

A greedy businessman licking money.

Keep the help off the books

A little bit of a controversial one here, but if you hire help through all of the official channels, you’re going to be bound by things like minimum wage and holiday entitlements. If you go off the books, all of a sudden, you can trim huge amounts off the serving staff costs. Good help is a bit harder to find these days, in the post-Brexit world, but there are still people who are desperate for work at any cost, and you can be the man to give it to them.

A map of the world.

Relocate your headquarters

Yes, the UK is becoming more and more tax-friendly by the year, but if your business’s headquarters is still located on British soil, you’re potentially spending much more than you need to. Worried you’re going to have to spend lots of money on the relocation? Don’t be silly. Just buy a shed in the Cayman Islands, make that the “official” headquarters, and continue to operate as usual in the UK. You won’t believe the amount that you could be saving.

A woman unhappy with her partner.

Have sex with your wife

We get it. Your marriage is loveless and you probably haven’t felt a positive feeling towards your wife for at least ten years at this point, but she is still a woman and a woman has a body. Once you add it all up, the cost of all those escorts is going to make a substantial dent in your finances, so it’s important to remember that their are avenues for sexual fulfilment at home.

A handshake between two people.

Settle out of court

Although an innocent verdict would be nicer for the newspapers, it’s not guaranteed, and settling out of court can help you to avoid the costs of a lengthy trial, as well as potentially ending in hefty fines. It’s a big payment all at once, but once you’ve paid it, the savings can be astronomical and all your troubles disappear at once. Just make sure it doesn’t get to the authorities next time!

A pile of cocaine.

Swap the cocaine for another drug

You need an outlet, that’s understandable. You work hard and you have a stressful life, but while cocaine may be appealing, it’s certainly not the cheapest hit out there. If you can, try to replace it with a combination of alcohol and cigarettes. If that still doesn’t do it, try and go for a natural hit of adrenalin by starting violent altercations with strangers on the street- just be careful of the authorities – you don’t want any more legal fees on your plate. (As a quick aside, the thrill of taking a human life, and nobody ever finding out, is one quite unlike any other – I definitely recommend it).

A huge pile of paperwork.

Cut back on insurance

No doubt, you’re paying huge amount of life insurance each month for your children. Of course, when they were a baby, their life seemed to be the most precious thing to you in the world, but now they’re a young twenty-something who’s always tweeting that you were an abusive father even though you gave them everything. Wouldn’t it be nicer to stop paying the life insurance? Well, if anything were to happen to them, you’d get a huge payout, and you wouldn’t need to worry about paying anymore either – and in today’s troubled world, young adults die tragically all the time. Nobody would suspect you. You’re innocent, of course. You could make a fair bit of money doing interviews in the local papers afterwards too. People love a sob story, and it’s a lot easier to say loving words about your kids after their dead.

A man in a plane and Boris Johnson.

Put your money into arms

We live in a troubled world. There is a lot of money in the arms-dealing industry these days, and it’s a slice of cake you should help yourself to. Worried about an end to tensions? Well, call in a favour from a few friends, and maybe certain peace talks fall through. All of a sudden, your money is worth twice as much as it was originally.

Some bread.

Buy out of date bread

Going into the supermarket later in the evening will mean that you have access to discount prices that others only dream of. £0.19 for a loaf of bread? Yes, please. The amount you’ll save by just going to the supermarket a little later is enormous.

So if you have been feeling the pinch lately, I hope that this helps free up a bit of room in your budget. If you aren’t doing these things, you have only yourself to blame for being poor.

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On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

I have always been drawn to adventures about pirates on the high seas, and so it was only a matter of time before I got around to reading On Stranger Tides (the book that inspired the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie). Interestingly enough, this was also the first ever book that I ‘read’ as an audiobook.

The novel follows a man named John Chandagnac who is on a ship bound for Jamaica where he hopes to confront his uncle (who betrayed his father), but enroute, the ship is hijacked by pirates, which then completely changes the course of his journey, and of his life.

The ensuing adventure contains battles at sea, the fountain of youth, voodoo zombie pirates, mysterious and remote tropical island, and many of the other tropes that define the pirate fiction genre, and you know what, as much as these things may sound a little cliché, I absolutely love it. I enjoyed its strange interdimensional attempt at explaining the fountain of youth, and I also loved the way that magic was incorporated into the events as a long forgotten art that could still be harnessed by those in the know – it was always written about so beautifully, giving the world a sense of charm and mystery.

Among the pirates in the story, Chandagnac meets a man named Davies, who is a bit of a pirate archetype. I often thought that he seemed to cold-blooded and ruthless to be truly likeable, but I did enjoy the fact that they didn’t shy away from the ugly side of piracy. I also quite liked the friendship that grew between Davies and Chandagnac as it went on and when Blackbeard shows up, he provides a nice point of comparison that shows Davies could be a lot worse.

One of my only real criticisms of the book is the fact that it only really has one major female character: Beth Hurwood. While she is nice enough, I felt like she was too often just there to be a damsel in distress and/or a love interest for Chandagnac. Later on, ‘female magic’ ends up being an important counterpart to ‘male magic’ which I thought was a bit silly too. Beth is alright all things considered – I just wish she got to have more of an active role in the proceedings.

As a quick side note, I just want to mention one of the villains: Leo Friend. Gosh. Tim Powers did an excellent job in creating somebody who is so utterly repulsively and unlikeable. Somehow, he seems to have the perfect name for a villain too. He interactions with Beth are really gross, but it’s nice to have a piece of adventure/fantasy fiction where the disgusting attitudes to women are coming from the villain and are being openly condemned (you know, unlike Game of Thrones).

If you like pirate fiction, then this book gets a strong recommendation from me. It could be better in some ways (it’s not doing anything ground-breaking with the genre), but it is a wonderful atmospheric pirate adventure, tying in history, fantasy, and even a tough of sci-fi, and I really enjoyed it.

Rating: 8.6/10

Buy it here.

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The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

This is the first novel in the multi-part Wheel of Time series. It’s set in a world where time is circular (a wheel) and all the people in the world are in a constant cycle of death and reincarnation, doomed to repeat the same things over and over infinitely.

I thought it was a nicely unique concept for a fantasy world, and one which is implemented well throughout. Though it largely focuses on on a single set of people during a single point within this wheel, it was a really interesting backdrop for the story, and one which came up regularly throughout it. I’m excited to see what more is done with the concept in later books.

As for the story of this one, to some extent, it’s your typical fantasy set-up – simple country boys are whisked away from their peaceful life in a quiet village and end up on a quest that will bring them across the world as they journey to battle an evil that threatens everything.

The structure of the story might not be too different from things we’ve all seen before, but using a tried and tested formula is by no means a bad thing. I really enjoyed the book because of all of the interesting locations they visited, excellent world-building, and most of all, a great cast of characters.

My two favourites were Moiraine, an Aes Sedai (which is a sort of witch in this world) and her warder, Lan. Moiraine plays the ‘mysterious old wizard’ part in this story, and I think she does so very well. She comes across as otherworldly, in a way, concerned with higher matters than those happening directly before her, and though she a morally grey character for sure, she was so enigmatic that I was won over.

Meanwhile, Lan, her warder, is a completely stoic man who is unquestionably loyal to Moraine. The bond between the two of them is supposed to exceed that bond between a married couple, without it being in the least bit romantic, which I really liked. You don’t often see things like that in fiction.

The other characters were great too. Rand is a little bit of a generic protagonist, but he’s also an awkward, angsty teen. Egwene is a girl that Rand has always been endeared to, and she’s always wanted to see more of the world and now she wants to learn more about the Aes Sedai from Moiraine, but is pulled in another direction by Nynaeve, the village wisdom, who is anti-Aes Sedai (which creates some good conflict). There’s another great character called Loial, but I won’t say too much about him as he comes into it quite late.

All in all, you really feel like the characters are on a long journey in this book, visiting far off locations all around their world – and it’s a world with such a fascinating backstory. If you enjoy fantasy, you’ll probably love this.

Rating: 9.2/10

Buy it here.

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Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

This is just the kind of fantasy that I love. Many people have probably heard of the popular anime adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle, but it’s also a fantastic book, and I definitely recommend it as a different, but equally strong, experience.

Howl’s Moving Castle tells the story of a young woman named Sophie who is suddenly aged far beyond her years by the Witch of the Waste – a figure who is feared across the land. Afraid and not sure what to do, she runs away and meets Howl and his famous moving castle. Howl himself isn’t exactly well respected or regarded in the community (indeed, rumours say that he eats girls’ hearts), but Sophie tags along with him and his young apprentice, Michael, and his resident demon, Calcifer, who powers the titular moving castle.

Though it times, it can feel a little aimless, with the characters just going from one small adventure to the next, it’s all tied together by the overall plot related to The Witch of the Waste, and Sophie looking for a way to reverse her curse. What appealed to me the most was how whimsical the book often was, but never to the extent to being too silly – unlike you see in some more modern fantasy and sci-fi, it takes itself completely sincerely.

Howl is a very funny character too, in that he’s supposed to be this big scary wizard, but he’s actually a pretentious layabout – even if he is still very powerful. Sophie doesn’t have time for any of his nonsense though, and the way the two of them constantly bicker about things is a great source of entertainment.

One of my favourite chapters of the book has to do with the relation between the fantastical world of Ingary, where the majority of the story takes place, and our real world. I won’t spoil it, but it’s bizarre, and unexpected, and I loved that. I always enjoy fantasy worlds having some tie to our own, and I look forward to seeing that thread explored further in later books in the series.

Though the very ending seemed a little cheesy for me (though true to fairy tales, I suppose), it was also very nice to see how many of the seemingly random things that were introduced all tied together – especially in relation to Calcifer.

While it has the capacity to be quite dark at times, it’s also a book that gives you such whimsical things as boots that can take you several miles in a single steps, conversations with falling stars, scarecrows coming to life, and more. There are even a few references to other pieces of fantasy and literature in it, which all help to make reading this book a very charming experience.

As children’s fantasy goes, this is definitely one that will appeal to adults too. If you want a bit of light and enjoyable escapism, this is a book to try.

Rating: 9.2/10

Buy it here.

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Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

While Dracula is the big, well-known vampire novel of the latter nineteenth century (and indeed, one of my favourite books), it was actually preceded by Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. For years, I’d meant to read it, but it was only recently that I got around to doing so.

Surprisingly, despite having been a big fan Dracula fan for so long, I actually think that Carmilla is the better of the two. For me, I always liked the portion of the novel that focused on Jonathan Harker’s stay in Count Dracula’s castle – the setting is beautifully creepy, and being isolated from civilisation only helps to make it even more so. Though shorter, the entirety of Carmilla captures that feeling of early Dracula.

Set in a castle deep in a massive forest in Styria, this novel tells the story of a mysterious young woman named Carmilla who ends up coming to stay with the protagonist (a girl named Laura) and her family. The eerie atmosphere of the setting bleeds through into absolutely everything that happens, with many unusual events seeming to centre around Carmilla herself.

Speaking of, the enigmatic Carmilla is easily my favourite character in this. It’s a shame that her being about vampire is no secret to anybody these days, because leading up to that fact must have been really interesting back in the day, but as it stands, it’s still an engaging read even if you do know where it’s going.

Genuinely, I felt quite sympathetically towards Carmilla. I see her as a genuinely tragic character. Unlike Dracula, who comes across as much more of a plain villain, I, at least, really felt that Carmilla cared for Laura and was rather invested in their relationship. It very strongly suggests that the two of them are in love with each other, and for its time, that’s extremely progressive.

The negative response to Carmilla by other characters could be read as a parallel to the negative response to gay people at that time in history – although as I write that, I’m not sure how much I want to make the comparison between vampirism and homosexuality. There’d be some pretty unfortunately implications there, and I don’t think that author meant anything harmful by that, but it certainly plays with some societal taboos.

Anyway, I won’t say any more for fear of completely ruining the ending, but really I loved this book. The two things that a book can do to leave a big impression on me are: creating characters whose relationship I am invested in, and creating settings that have a really strong sense of place. Carmilla does both of these things, and it has vampires. That makes it pretty amazing in my estimation.

Rating: 9.4/10

Buy it here.

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Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

For years, I had seen Twilight mocked and parodied as being a really bad book, but I don’t like to get my literary perspectives from the general consensus. I’m quite a fan of vampire fiction, after all, so I thought maybe I’d actually love it.

When I finally read it, I went in with an open mind. I didn’t hate it, but I can kind of see why others do. Let’s start with what I did like about it though: first of all, there’s the town of Forks (where the novel is set), which comes across really well as a setting. The surrounding forests, the gloomy, grey weather – it all felt very clear in my mind and helped make the novel feel more immersive.

Then there’s Bella Swan – yes, she can be annoying, but I actually kind of liked her. She’s a teenage girl, and she feels like a very realistic teenager. She thinks she knows everything, she’s really pretentious and looks down on everyone, and for these reasons she’s kind of funny and endearing. I cared about her, because she was realistic. I particularly find it funny how she’s so constantly looking down on everyone, but also really intimidated by everything too – it does rather encapsulate the teenage perspective.

On the other hand, I didn’t really like Edward Cullen. He’s a very creepy man who I didn’t think ever did anything to earn Bella’s affection, which I suppose is purely physical. He’s over a hundred years old (though physically a teenager) and spent all the time in school, which no doubt did very strange things to his mind, and paints him as a man with some strange issues.

Even if we accept that he is still a teenager because becoming a vampire preserved him as one forever, he’s still controlling of Bella (rarely considering how his actions affect her, always thinking he knows best) and completely contradictory in his attitudes. For example, he always tells Bella to stay away from him because he’s a monster who might kill her at any moment, but then he also invites her to meet him in secluded locations in the middle of the woods. He’s also attracted to her because of the smell of her blood, which you’d think would be a turn-off for Bella, but it’s not.

Ultimately, Edward isn’t as bad as, say, Christian Grey, (and he does help protect her from greater evils) but he still comes across as a weird, lecherous creature – which isn’t just because he’s a vampire either, because other vampires seem much more normal. Speaking of which, I really liked the character Carlisle Cullen, who is Edward’s father figure. He doesn’t get a huge amount of time in the spotlight, but one chapter explores his history and gives a fascinating tale that spans several centuries. I loved it. In fact, I wish the whole book was about Carlisle.

If you read between the lines, you can kind of read it as a pro-celibacy novel, which is probably the worst thing about it. I see nothing wrong with someone deciding to be celibate of their own accord, but I don’t think it’s something you can push someone to, and I think Stephenie Meyer was trying to do that with this book. But if you can look past that, it’s a relatively enjoyable book that accurately captures teenage angst – which can be a bit monotonous at times, but with a nice dose of vampirism in the mix, my overall experience with the book was a positive one.

Rating: 7.2/10

Buy it here.

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It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

What if America had become a fascist state in the 1930s? That’s the question that Sinclair Lewis answers with his book, It Can’t Happen Here. It is not only a thought provoking novel, but one that’s written in a very unique style.

At some points, the book feels as if it’s a history book from another universe. The way that political events are written about is very much as if they were real, and I thought that this was a really effective method for helping make the book feel more believable. But it’s not all like that: at the heart of the book is a man called Doremus Jessup and his family.

Doremus and his family live a kind of idyllic life at the start of the book, but that soon begins to deteriorate once Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip becomes president. This gives everything a much-needed human aspect, because going for the purely ‘alternative historic’ style might have made it all feel too academic, but seeing the consequences of fascism manifesting in the lives of characters for whom you feel some level of fondness makes it all much more distressing.

And it is a very distressing book, at times. Admittedly, I think that Lewis was trying to be very darkly comic with some parts, but certain events which take place are so enormously harrowing that they’ll stay with you a long time – not least because many similar atrocities have actually happened in reality in other dictatorships.

Of course, that’s really what the book is all about: the horrors of fascism. The story is fictional, but it draws on some very real horrors. It’s awfully clever in a lot of ways, because as much as Doremus is opposed to the new regime and does what he can to challenge it, the book also shows how he was complicit in Buzz’s rise to power as well, and how certain attitudes and behaviour feed into a dictator being democratically elected.

It also does a good job of illustrating that with fascism, nobody wins – not even the fascists themselves. The book could often be quite depressing, in part, because of the sad fates which befall even those who are loyal to the oppressive government – though I do think it ended on a fairly optimistic note.

As dystopian fiction goes, I think It Can’t Happen Here is one of the best. Even though it was written before Nineteen Eighty-Four, I believe it does a much better job of challenging fascism than that book does, by showing exactly how a dictator could rise to power. Although, I have to admit, that some aspects of it felt a little bit ‘fast’ in terms of the steps Buzz takes to cement his power.

Though I am a bit biased because I find the 1930s a very interesting time period (it’s also filled with literary references that I enjoyed), I genuinely think that this is a fantastic book and one that I definitely recommend. Now more than ever, people need to be aware of the risk posed by fascism…

Rating: 9/10

Buy now.

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Lessons from the Mountain by Mary McDonough

This book is the autobiography of Mary McDonough, best known for playing Erin Walton in the hit TV show, The Waltons. From the title through to the marketing, Lessons from the Mountain is very much presented as if it were all about her time on the show, but, actually, there’s so much more to her life than that and even though I’m a massive fan of The Waltons, that part of the book was probably the least interesting to me.

I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy reading about her time as Erin, because I did. It’s really fascinating to get an insight into the mind of the person who brought to life one of the fictional characters I’m so familiar and fond of, and her anecdotes about life on the set were interesting and sometimes heartwarming – there was a story about Will Geer trying to make her become more comfortable with her body that I particularly liked, for example.

At the same time, she certainly doesn’t shy away from the tolls that being a child actor takes on a person. The depression and anxiety that she had to deal with while acting is kind of heart-breaking, and it certainly highlights the morally dubious nature of children being actors, because despite the fact that it might seem glamourous, they are still starting jobs at a very young age, and experiencing all the stress that people normally wouldn’t encounter until their adult years.

She also writes about the general difficulties of being a woman working in Hollywood: about sexual harassment, about extreme pressures to look a certain way, seedy directors trying to make her do nude scenes she didn’t want to, and much more besides. As much as she was writing about her experiences as an actor in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, I think a lot of this remains important to this day.

But really, I think the part of the book that was most interesting to me, was where she detailed her work as an activist. She explains that due to the body image problems she experienced, and the fact that she felt like she would get more work if she had larger breasts, she decided to have breast implants.

When she had the procedure, she wasn’t told anything about the health risks, or the fact that they would need to be changed every few years or so, and because of this lack of information, she ended up experiencing a severe decline in health and was ultimately diagnosed with lupus. She would later discover that there are many women who had become similarly ill, or who had even lost their lives, after undergoing a breast enlargement procedure.

Together with other women who had experienced the same problem, she tried to sue the medical company behind it with a class action lawsuit. Sadly, it was unsuccessful, and she details the harassment she received as a result of this, and how the media tried to smear the character of everyone involved. It’s such appalling stuff, and it’s incredible that she stood alongside many other brave individuals to challenge these unethical practises.

Before reading, I had no idea whatsoever that breast enlargement was anything but a simple routine with no real risks. When you see it discussed in film and TV, it’s portrayed as if it’s no big deal, but awareness needs to be raised about the serious harm that they can do, and in writing this book, Mary McDonough has helped shine a light on a social issue which seems to receive very little acknowledgement in the mainstream media. This is why it was so much more interesting to me than the story of her time on The Waltons (as much as I love it).

When I started reading this book, I respected Mary McDonough for her acting abilities in portraying Erin Walton (and for writing the book One Year). When I finished reading this book, I respected Mary McDonough as a fine actor and writer, as well as someone who actively fights to make the world a better place.

Score: 9.3/10

Buy it here.

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The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique was one of the most influential feminists books of its time. It raises many societal problems which were particularly relevant at the time, and many of which still pervade society even to this day (although to a lesser extent now than then). Sadly, though it was a progressive piece for its time, it has aged quite poorly in other regards, but that doesn’t mean that its valuable points should be disregarded.

The biggest point that Friedan tries to make with this book is that a woman cannot gain total fulfilment in life by dedicating her existence to housekeeping and raising children. Her argument is that because children inevitably grow up, build their own lives, and then move out, the women’s fulfilment is built upon something that is very temporary – once a child no longer ‘needs’ their mother for everything, she may well feel depressed because she has lost the ‘purpose’ she has imposed on herself and no longer has an independent existence of her own.

At the time, this was caused by a prevalent cultural belief that women’s natural role was in the home and she also illustrates that women’s issues actually worsened in the 50s and 60s, after improving somewhat in the 30s and 40s, as a part of the push to get men back into workplaces after women had taken a lot of jobs during the Second World War. I tend to think of social issues as a steady line of improvement, but it’s interesting to consider that there are ups and downs along the way.

She argues that it is important for women to maintain careers while being mothers, because that can help them to keep a sense of independent existence, and also give them something to get back to, once their children aren’t so dependent on them. Obviously, everyone’s needs are different, but as a general rule, I think that’s pretty sensible.

But here’s where she really dates herself: she goes so far as to argue that promiscuity, homosexuality, and autism all may be caused by children growing up without a strong female role model, because their mother lacks their own independent existences. It’s kind of insulting to quite a lot of people really, with a fundamental misunderstanding of how these things work, and then there’s also the fact that she says the lives of housewives are comparable to those of people held in Nazi concentration camps, which is a very poorly conceived comparison which falls apart really easily (in her defence, the introduction explains that she grew to regret this decision).

So, all in all, while there are many points that remain important to this day and have a progressive ethos to them, it’s also clear that this is a book of its time and several of the more unpleasant attitudes of the 1960s do rear their heads (although at least she is sympathetic to the civil rights movement), and it can generally be a very dry read sometimes. Still, it’s an interesting piece of history and her notion of the ‘feminine mystique’ itself (the idea that women should be able to find fulfilment in keeping a happy home) and the harm that it causes, will always be relevant.

Rating: 6.6/10

Buy it here.

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