PositiveThe New Statesman (UK)This is very much a book for straight readers, given its emphasis on what she sees as the innate and conflicting differences between male and female sexuality, of which more later ... There have been plenty of books by young women denouncing pornified culture. But what’s unusual about Perry’s is its full-throated boldness. She doesn’t, she insists, want to drag everyone back to the 1950s, despite her uncompromisingly retro view that women should get married and stay married if they possibly can. But she absolutely is gunning for what she calls \'liberal feminism\', a painstakingly inclusive credo embracing diverse sexual identities ... Her rules may sound to many of her peers like fusty relics from the Victorian age, and I have both practical and ideological reservations about several of them. Her descriptions of the \'female brain\' also come down too heavily, for my money, on the side of biology over social conditioning, given the painstaking work of psychologists such as Cordelia Fine to disentangle the two ... But Perry undeniably has a sharp eye both for the ways in which contemporary feminism risks eating itself and for those guilty feminist moments where emotions awkwardly refuse to comply with the theoretical ideal. Any woman who has ever had what was meant to be a gloriously hedonistic no-strings fling, only to find herself anxiously checking her WhatsApps just to see if he’s called, will recognise something here ... although she skewers a problem, Perry is less convincing on the solutions ... The tug of war between freedom and security, pleasure and shame, isn’t new. But Perry has brought it bang up to date in this invigoratingly readable book, which fits neatly into the gap between highly \'online\' feminism and what lots of women actually think and feel and do in private ... You don’t have to agree with her entire world-view to find it thought-provoking. You just have to wonder, even fleetingly, why the aspects of patriarchy men seem keenest on overthrowing so often seem to involve taking your clothes off.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... some readers may wonder whether the author is almost too pure for her chosen world. But then, in her telling, so is half the White House. Bill Clinton comes across as thoroughly avuncular. The first lady’s office is a sisterly utopia ... either [Hillary] Clinton is uniquely inspirational or Abedin uniquely generous. It’s the dynamic between the two women that makes this book compelling ... The [Clinton presidency] section of the book is the only one that drags a little. More glorified bag-carrier at this stage than strategist, Abedin offers little deep insight into the Clinton presidency or Hillary Clinton’s subsequent career as a New York senator, despite some intriguing glimpses behind the scenes ... The story crackles back to life, however, when Anthony Weiner enters it ... Reading about their courtship is like watching a horror film and screaming at the heroine not to go into the haunted house ... Reading about their courtship is like watching a horror film and screaming at the heroine not to go into the haunted house, while knowing that, of course, she will.
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.