Today, Wednesday 8th March is International Women’s Day 2017. With its humble beginnings going as far back as 1911, International Women’s Day is regarded by most as a way to celebrate the economic, social and political achievements of women. And, although the world has made great strides toward gender equality, especially during the last several decades, major disparities between men and women still exist. Women from all walks of life still face disadvantages. Around the world women will earn on average only 60 to 75 per cent of men’s wages and are 65 per cent more likely to work in informal, and often unpaid, work. And for some this still appears to be perfectly acceptable, the idea of gender parity preposterous, proven several days ago during a discussion with members of the European Parliament. Politicians were debating the pay gap when Polish nationalist MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke shared his thoughts on the subject. He stated that,
“Of course, women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent. They must earn less, that’s all.”
This is shocking to say the least and until this conscious and unconscious bias is challenged and completely eradicated, women still have some way to go before they can truly observe a gender balanced society.
However, although there is still some way to go, women in more developed countries, in general, have come a long way. Sadly this is not the case for those living in countries still developing. Activists for women in developing countries tend to focus on more basic issues like combating violence against women and providing equal access to vaccines, basic healthcare, and primary education.
Therefore, as both a woman and mother of daughters, I feel compelled to acknowledge such an important day. I hope this post will help draw attention to some of the on going issues still experienced by women and eventually lead to a change in attitudes that find us living in a more gender inclusive world. Unfortunately the World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186 and I for one don’t believe this is acceptable. I implore anyone who wishes to help bring about change to mark this day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything big or grand, we all live busy lives but even the smallest gesture or acknowledgement can make a difference. You may even be rather surprised as to who takes note – like I was last year.
To mark IWD in 2016 I posted a tweet on my Twitter account of a quote by Malala Yousafzai:
“Extremists have shown what frightens them most: A girl with a book.”
Malala was shot in the neck and head by the Taliban in October 2012 in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. She was attacked because she advocated a girl’s right to an education; an idea that the Taliban fervently opposed. Malala was only 14-years-old at the time and amazingly, Malala survived. The extraordinary thing about my story though is how quickly my tweet was retweeted. I’d like to say it was all down to me for posting such a poignant message but the brilliant truth is it was mostly due to J.K. Rowling – and yes I do mean the writer! J.K Rowling retweeted my tweet and thanks to her that particular tweet now has 8,363 likes and has had 6,159 retweets, which only goes to show that sometimes even the smallest contribution or support towards change can have a far greater reach than you’d ever imagined.
If you do tweet some words of inspiration today, don’t forget to use the hashtag campaign theme #BeBoldForChange and if you’d like some more information about IWD you can take a look at their website here.
If you’d like to take a look at the video footage of Janusz Korwin-Mikke you can visit the BBC News (World) Twitter account here where you can also see the brilliant response to his statement by the Spanish Socialist member Iratxe Garcia Perez – go girl!
My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry
Published by Penguin
What if your life was built on a lie?
When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind.
But when she takes on her first criminal case, she starts to find herself strangely drawn to her client. A man who’s accused of murder. A man she will soon be willing to risk everything for.
But is he really innocent?
And who is she to judge?
MY HUSBAND’S WIFE is a thriller with so many twists you won’t be able to put it down, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Clare Mackintosh and C. L. Taylor.
An intense psychological thriller, My Husband’s Wife, will keep you gripped to the very end. As with most good thrillers the short prologue teases the reader by beginning with the end of the story:
Flash of metal. Thunder in my ears…My head is killing me…The pain in my chest is scary. So, too, is the blood…Can a marriage end in murder?…So it’s true what they say about dying. The past comes back to go with you.
This is then followed by several sentences of a newspaper article reporting the death of the artist Ed Macdonald. Stating he has been found stabbed to death, we are left in no doubt that this a tale of murder…or could it simply a case of self-defence? Full of suspense, including chilling insights into the human psyche, Corry skilfully leads the reader down a slippery path littered with intrigue and dramatic twists. We are told from the outset that this story ends with the death of one of it’s characters but by whom and most importantly – why?
A tale of two halves the story then begins fifteen years prior to the prologue where we are introduced to the two central characters, namely Lily, a fledgling solicitor and Carla, a young school girl and only child of her Italian single mother. Lily, narrated in the first person, is newly married to Ed, an artist, but it is immediately apparent, despite having recently returned from honeymoon, there are problems within the marriage. Lily, having recently been consigned to criminal law is then assigned with the management of an appeal case of a convicted murderer, where Lily, despite her better judgement, finds herself strangely drawn to her client. In the meantime, acting as well meaning neighbours, Lily and Ed befriend Carla, written in the third person, and her mother. The young married couple agree to babysit Carla from time to time when her mother has to work and Carla finds herself becoming Ed’s muse for his artwork. The story then jumps forward twelve years. Lily is a successful solicitor specialising in criminal law, Ed is the efficacious artist of the painting of The Italian Girl and Lily, now a young woman studying law, is hell bent on revenge. However, as with all good thrillers, all is not as it seems.
This is a classic whodunit with many surprising twists and turns. Corry’s characters are well rounded and believable. At times I found myself liking and disliking them all in equal measure, despite their flaws and bad deeds, because, they are all typically human and as we all know, given the right circumstances, good people are capable of bad deeds just as bad people are capable of good ones. Corry also provides some well-researched insight into autism as well as some thought provoking observations of suicide, adultery, unknown paternity, and adoption and, of course, murder. Definitely one I’d recommend.
Love Is In The Air!
Celebrated on 14th February each year, the cynics among us could be forgiven for viewing upcoming Valentine’s Day in its current incarnation as a colossal commercial venture seized upon by big businesses to drive huge sales.
Flowers – red roses are by far the most popular, with estimates of around 110 million sold 2-3 days leading up to February 14th.
Chocolates – more than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold.
Jewellery – estimates suggest us Brits alone will spend 58 million on jewellery.
Cards – then of course there are Valentines Cards where an estimated one billion will be sent worldwide making Valentine’s Day the second largest seasonal card sending celebration after Christmas.
However, the writer and romantic in me prefer to believe there is more to it than that. So, straight from the heart, and in the true spirit of love and romance, here are a few declarations of love taken from several famous love letters.
Zelda Fitzgerald to F Scott Fitzgerald
Darling – I love these velvet nights. I’ve never been able to decide … whether I love you most in the eternal classic half-lights where it blends with day or in the full religious fan-fare of mid-night or perhaps in the lux of noon.
Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf
I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.
Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murry
Do not imagine, because you find these lines in your private book that I have been trespassing. You know I have not – and where else shall I leave a love letter? For I long to write you a love letter tonight. You are all about me – I seem to breathe you – hear you – feel you in me and of me …
John Keats to Fanny Brawne
My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you — I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again — my Life seems to stop there — I see no further.
Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash
We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other one wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.
But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met.
Book Review – Another Love by Amanda Prowse
Published by Head of Zeus
Take an intelligent, hardworking woman with a successful career surrounded by a doting husband, beautiful young daughter and all the material trappings anyone could reasonably wish for and you have all the ingredients for a perfect life – right? Wrong – especially when there is another love involved. And when that other love is so great, so alluring, so addictive and so destructive it overrides all rational thought and even the welfare of your own child, it is immediately apparent how caustic and far reaching such a love can be.
Romilly, quiet, studious and less pretty than her beautiful twin sisters – at least in her eyes – meets David, fellow student at university. David, gorgeous and popular is well out of Romily’s league “for she knew beyond a shadow of doubt that boys like David Wells didn’t fall in love with bookish, ginger-haired, spectacle-wearing girls like her.” Only, much to Romily’s surprise, he does. On their first date Romily decides she needs a little Dutch courage – just to help calm her nerves. And she isn’t fussy, anything will do, “she needed something to give her confidence, anything that might loosen her tongue and enable her to shine a little in front of this beautiful boy.” Their friendship blossoms into love, eventually leading to marriage and the birth of their beautiful daughter, Celeste. But, despite a successful career as a scientist, her loving husband, her beautiful daughter and her wonderful house, Romily continues to reach for the bottle – to manage a visit from her opinionated mother in law, to manage work – to manage life in general. Only, as with most addictions, one glass of wine leads to one bottle, leads to several bottles, leads to many bottles.
Narrated through the voices of Romily and her daughter, Celeste, Amanda Prowse does a brilliant job of demonstrating the destructive and far reaching effects alcohol addiction has, not only on the life of the addict themselves but on friends and family too. However, although Prowse doesn’t sugar-coat the consequences of this devastating illness she nonetheless manages to tell it with great empathy. Another Love is definitely one I’d recommended.
As we already approach the third week of the new year the bad news is we’re still in deepest mid-winter in the UK and it’s cold enough to freeze the proverbial ‘you know what’s’ off a brass monkey. However,the shortest day of winter, December 21st, has already passed us by so from hereon in, nights are getting shorter and days longer and more importantly for me, thanks to the small Cambridgeshire town I live in, mid January also offers a welcome injection of colour and merriment in the form of the annual Straw Bear Festival. This weekend has seen the sleepy little town of Whittlesey come alive with visitors and townsfolk alike partaking in some good spirited drinking, street dancing and general good cheer as it celebrates its 38th Straw Bear Festival. Undoubtedly one of my favourite times of the year, it is this annual festival that provided the inspiration behind my own interpretation of such an event in my debut novel, 183 Times A Year, which takes place in the fictitious town of Great Tosson. And, just for your enjoyment, I include an extract below as well as a few photo’s I took this weekend.
“My self-indulgent melancholy is temporarily hindered as I push my way through swarms of people gathered along every street. Our small and usually quiet town is bustling and bursting at the seams. An infestation of locals and visitors alike follow the bear made of straw – enthusiastically entertained by an entourage of storytellers and street acts. Musicians provide a melodic din across an eclectic sound of instruments. Bagpipes, Harmonicas, Maudolin’s and Hurdy Gurdy’s intertwine with the heartbeat of base and side drums to well known songs such as the The Curly Headed Ploughboy and the Old Drove Road.
Flamboyant costumes of the Morris, Molly, Rapper and Long Sword dancers inject a welcome relief of colour into the drab and dreary backdrop. Technicolor tatter-coats dazzle the eye, as do some of the more eccentric waistcoats, rosettes and neckerchiefs. Others sport flashing, neon armbands and some wear straw hats while others show off black bowlers or top hats. Women predominately fashion layered, ankle length skirts that rustle with every twist and turn whilst men prefer knee-length breeches. White handkerchiefs are waved ceremoniously and whoops and cries of varying voice are thrown up and caught on the wind. There is rhythmic clash of metal from the Long Swords complimenting the hollow collision of clay pipe wielding Morris dancers.
I look across a flock of faces and pick out Dad’s. I continue to push my way through the throng of good spirits, hoping some of it may actually rub off. Enticing smells of mulled wine and roasting hog hangs heavy amongst the atmosphere of pagan abandonment. Joyous escape from fuel bills, job losses and pay cuts. A brief but hedonistic trip into carnival and Mardi Gras.”
Copyright © Eva Jordan 2015
If you’d like to know more about this wonderful festival or the history behind it, click here.
Book Review – Number 11 by Jonathan Coe
Publisher – Penguin
Number 11 is the eleventh novel written by Jonathon Coe, and although this is my first Coe read, research suggests it has all the hallmarks of his previous novels in that most of his work has an underlying preoccupation with political issues, often expressed comically in the form of satire. Number 11 is a bang up to date, state of the nation satire.
Starting with best friends Rachel and Alison, Coe takes us on a social and political journey beginning around the turn of the century. For the most part Rachel remains the main protagonist throughout, however, Number 11 is not really plot driven or character driven but rather a number of loosely connected short stories or episodes, where Rachel, predominately, has some link as does the Number 11, whether it’s a bus route, a house number, a table number at a function and also, not surprisingly, number 11 Downing Street.
The characters and their unfolding stories are used, in the main, as vehicles for Coe’s brilliant social commentary. His targets are obvious one’s but deservedly so including; corrupt business owners, bankers and politicians, social media – including cyber bullying and trolling – and reality TV. Coe also looks at the effect of austerity on the poor – be that housing shortages, a lack of decent job opportunities and the rise of food banks – compared to the unaffected super-rich with their many properties – often standing vacant – with garages alone valued at just under half a million pounds, used for storing cars never driven.
‘I feel,’ Rachel said, ‘that there’s my world, and there’s their world, and the two co-exist, and are very close to each other, but you can’t really pass from one to the other.’
Number 11 is a brilliantly social commentary about the current state of our nation. Coe is a great satirist and I often found my mouth lifting into a wry smile, however, I also found myself feeling somewhat deflated with his depressingly accurate observations about the absurdity of modern life. Therefore, it is not a particularly cheery read – and nor should it be. It also descends into a tale of horror towards the end, which although interesting, somehow felt disjointed with the rest of the book. I don’t think this book is for everyone, however Coe’s prose throughout is brilliant and I for one would recommend it.