PositiveThe Guardian (UK)The book simultaneously is and isn’t about George Orwell, just as it is and isn’t about roses. It belongs in a whimsical category of its own, meandering elegantly enough through lots of subjects loosely connected to one or the other; more of a wildly overgrown essay, from which side shoots constantly emerge to snag the attention, than a book ... Solnit makes a persuasive case for the importance of acknowledging what Orwell loved and enjoyed, as well as what angered or saddened him, without shying away from accepting that those who actually work the land for a living are often significantly less dewy-eyed about country life than middle-class people with chickens running through their orchards ... not all the branching diversions of this book are so successful ... The green-fingered and the politically committed alike will want to curl up with this book as the gardening year draws to a close and we reflect on a time during which nature has been more of a solace than usual. It’s been a good year for the roses, at least.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)I should have loathed this book, but I’m afraid I loved it. It is sheer gossipy joy, the perfect escape from a fug of coronavirus anxiety, yet with just enough dark espresso jolt beneath the froth to satisfy ... There is something gloriously refreshing about an account of political failure in which nobody is trying to excuse or hide the buttock-clenching awfulness of it ... There is a sadder storyline occasionally struggling to get out, about the feeling of having compromised one’s own ambitions for motherhood and promptly been leapfrogged by men who did not ... Yet she is smart enough to know that this is all more palatable as high farce than impossibly gilded tragedy. The book isn’t perfect, obviously – she’s a terrible name-dropper, forever referencing what her doubles partner David Cameron said at tennis, and the galloping speed at which it must have been written sometimes shows. But reading it is the definition of guilty pleasure. In times like this, grab that wherever you can.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)What [Scott] brings to this relatively well-worn argument is a global perspective, drawing on often fascinating vignettes from the African and Bangladeshi villages in which she has worked, but also a rallying cry against blaming women for things that are not their fault ... If you hadn’t already guessed, this is no light lockdown read; with its pages of graphs, it falls more into the category of what Andrea Dworkin famously called feminism, but not the fun kind. But those who have had more than enough \'fun\' feminist books – frothy you-go-girl stuff by celebrity authors, or compendiums of inspiring women down the ages – may well find it a tonic ... For here is the antithesis of what’s often sweepingly described as Lean In feminism, or the argument that women wanting to succeed in corporate life should just push a little harder, mastering the secrets of how to pass in a male-dominated world ... The advantage of the non-western lens she brings to this is that it can be easier to see palpable injustice when it is taken to extremes – in societies where women are still not able to own property in their own right, choose their marriage partners or refuse sex – than when it is closer to home ... Not every chapter bridges the two worlds quite so successfully, however. The absorbing human detail that makes the African sections come to life is thinner on the ground in the western sections. There is not much light and shade to be found, either, with little exploration of the ways in which British working mothers’ lives might have shifted over the last two decades – or indeed the way in which younger men’s working lives and attitudes have evolved ... Yet there’s something curiously exhilarating all the same about the brisk, no-nonsense anger bubbling beneath the surface of the text.