Eva Jordan reviews… A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray ‏

Eva Jordan reviews A History of Britain in 21 Women - Post Header

Published by Oneworld Publications

This year marks the  100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK.  Also, on March 8th, it was International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, observed annually since the early 1900s. I, therefore, thought it appropriate to review a book that was both fitting and relevant to both these historic events.

A History of Britain in 21 Women is written by Dame Jenni Murray; probably best known as Radio 4’s presenter of Women’s Hour and whom I had the very great pleasure of meeting last year. These short biographies are a personal selection chosen by Murray to present the history of Britain through the lives of twenty-one women, whose lives embodied hope and change, who refused to surrender to established laws of society, and, who still have the power to inspire us today.

In the introduction, Murray, born in 1950, states that growing up “the role of a woman was to learn how to be a good wife and mother, do the cooking and cleaning and nurture those her around her.” She quotes Thomas Carlyle, circa 1840, who said ‘The history of the world is but the biography of great men,’ and as a young girl growing up in Barnsley in the 1950s and ‘60s that’s pretty much what Murray believed. However, it was education that made her question the expectations placed on women, and after attending a wonderful girls’ school she began to discover many women that had influenced history and also challenged the assumption that a woman’s place was in the home.

Murray writes about, to name but a few; Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni tribe who fought bravely against the Romans to preserve a social structure that had been practised by, and was so important to the women of the tribes of Britain, namely equality; Aphra Behn, the first English woman playwright to earn her living by her pen; Astronomer Caroline Herschel, after whom a crater on the moon is named; And, computing pioneer Ada Lovelace. We are also given an insight into the courageous account of writer Fanny Burney (1752-1840) entitled ‘Account from Paris of a terrible Operation – 1812, who, when she discovered she had breast cancer and under the insistence of specialist surgeons, underwent one of the first recorded mastectomies at a time when there was no effective anaesthetic – ouch! She was 59 years old at the time and went on to live until the ripe old age of 88!

Written as biographies in small chunks, A History of Britain in 21 Women is well researched, informative and entertaining. Dedicated to “all the young people who need to know” it is an illuminating, easy read offering a great deal to both women and men of all ages. However some of Murray’s omissions were interesting and there was one woman in particular whom I felt wasn’t deserving of a place amongst such great individuals – but that’s purely politics. Nonetheless, a thought-provoking read finishing with a timely reminder that we still have a way to go and the fight for gender parity must continue.

 

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#PressforProgress – Still A Long Way To Go

 

“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

–Mary Wollstonecraft

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Image: Pixabay

Today, Thursday 8th March 2018, is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, political, cultural, and economic achievements of women. It is also a day that marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The call to action this year is #PressforProgress and with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp momentum is particularly strong this year. 2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK. So, a century on, how are we doing?

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Image: Pixabay

Sadly, the findings of the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report (International Women’s Day website) suggest gender parity is still over 200 years away. Disheartening to say the least. Further research suggests that globally, one in three women suffer from gender-based violence, sixty-two million girls, annually, are denied access to education, and women in the workplace still suffer in terms of pay and representation. Much has also been written about the inequality female writers still face in the writing and publishing world. As a female writer myself, I wanted to explore this a bit further.

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Image: Pixabay

In terms of reviews, literary prizes, and senior positions within publishing houses, many are still being awarded to men above women. Even World Book Night (The Guardian) shows that the picks of the last 5 years have been made up of 64 male versus 36 female authors. And author Nicola Griffith shows gender bias in her study, published in May 2015, of prizewinning books both here and across the pond, broken down by the gender of their protagonists. Her findings suggest that in the last 15 years, 12 of the Booker-winning novels have had male protagonists, two have had female protagonists, and one has had both male and female protagonists. The Booker fared better than the Pulitzer, which has had no female protagonist among its 15 winning books. I was also disappointed to find in a study carried out by The Guardian in August 2016, articles written by women, irrespective of their content or subject matter, attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men.

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Image: Pixabay

Aleesah Darlison (Writers Edit) attributes continued gender discrimination to “tradition and possibly even culture… It’s incredibly difficult to change centuries-old thinking, but women are continually striving to move forward.” 

Whereas some writers like Christine Piper (Writers Edit), author and winner of The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for After Darkness suggests that the confines of professional limitations based on gender are sometimes self-imposed and said “Like many women, I’ve been guilty of self-sabotage: doubting my ability, playing down my talents, taking rejections personally, and being shy about pursuing opportunities. Men are socialised to be confident and champion their abilities (but of course not all male writers are like this), while women are not – if a woman does do those things she’s often seen as arrogant or a ‘tall poppy’.”

However, it’s not all bad news, women are making advances. I only have to look at my daughter to see the opportunities available to her compared to my mother who, born in 1950, was paid half the wage of a man when she first started working. Nonetheless, let’s not get complacent, continue to unite, support one another and #PressforProgress for women.

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Image: Pixabay

 

It’s Not Always Fiction!

Happy New Year everyone! May 2018 bring you health, happiness and success (in whatever way you measure it) and if you get thrown a few curve balls along the way, may you have the strength to manage them. I would also like to wish all the book lovers out there many happy reading hours. May we all find the time to read lots of books this year, and hopefully put a dent in that ever growing TBR pile while we’re at it (pssst, we all know that will never happen and that TBR piles are only ever apt to grow!). And to all my writer friends, I wish you every success for the coming year, may you be blessed with the time and inspiration to do what we all love to do the most – write!

In the meantime, take a look at some of the beautiful gifts I received over the festive period and on my 50th birthday in November. There’s a diary with a difference, a toolbox for writers, a colourful book about some of  history’s amazing women and a treasury of unusual words. Each one is lovely or unique and just goes to prove, that when it comes to reading or writing, it’s not just about fiction!

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First up is the Me.You. Diary by the lovely Dawn French. Bought for me by my OH, it is absolutely gorgeous and in the words of the lady herself:

This book is a way for us to tell the story of a year together. Feel free to write your appointments in it, lists, thoughts and reminders of, say, who to kill, and when, and in what order. But I’ve also written about age and life as I see it, through the seasons and the months, and I’ve added some places for you to join me in some fun and some thinking. By the end of the year, I am hoping you will have a fatter, scruffier book that is written by me but totally personalised by you.

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Secondly, bought for me by my lovely children is The Writer’s Toolbox, a fun approach to helping with writer’s block, getting past that difficult opening line, or simply rounding out characters. Developed by long time writing teacher Jamie Cat Callan, The Writer’s Toolbox is described as:

An innovative kit that includes a 64 page booklet with exercises and instructions that focus on a ‘right brain’ approach to writing. Sixty exercise sticks will get stories off the ground, 60 cards fuel creative descriptions and four spinner palettes will ignite unexpected plot twists. For an aspiring writer this kit is the perfect first step on the path to literary greatness!

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Thirdly, if, like me, you’re bit of a history buff, then I highly recommend  this beautifully illustrated book by writer and artist, Ann Shen, again bought for me by my lovely children, which takes a look at 100 remarkable women that helped shape and change history. Great for young and old alike, it provides a perfect snapshot of each woman, alongside Shen’s lovely illustration of each.

The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change. Featuring bold watercolour portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.

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And finally, just for sheer amusement and the love of unusual words, I highly recommend Foyle’s Philavery, another wonderful gift from my other half. Written by Christopher Foyle (chairman of the world famous Foyles bookshop in London’s Charing Cross Road) this book is a collection of some the overlooked gems of the English language.

Some of these words appeal because of their aptness, some for their obscurity, some for their euphony, and some for their quirkiness. As a collection, they represent the fruits of a lifetime of reading and will delight all word lovers.

#Writing – it’s not a life, it’s an adventure!

I’m over on WE Heart Writing today talking about my journey to publication!

On 19th October my second novel, All The Colours In Between, was released followed a week later by the book launch at Waterstones. And, in several weeks time, I will also be celebrating a … ahem … certain milestone birthday. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but for various reasons it just never seemed to be the right time to knuckle down and get on with it, however, with two books now bagged before my 50th birthday it just goes to show that old saying is true – it’s never too late! ♥

 

Eva Jordan book launch, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on October 26, 2017.

Now, pop over to We Heart Writing to read the full article.

@BeTeenUs – Stepmum or Stepmonster? How to bring up teenagers in a stepfamily!

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I’m over on BeTeenUs today talking about parenting, stepparenting and moody teenagers!

It’s not easy being a parent, especially a parent of teenagers but if you are embarking on such a journey as a stepparent then I’d say you’re in for an interesting, and at times, bumpy ride. I know because as a parent and stepparent myself, I speak from the voice of experience.

It is just such experiences, along with all those associated with modern day family life, that inspired me to write both my debut novel, 183 Times A Year, and my recently released second novel, All The Colours In Between. Based on a fictional extended family, both novels explore the amusing and sometimes fraught relationship between parents and their teenage children, set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.

I’ve learned a lot over the years, both as a parent and stepparent. I’ve also carried out in-depth research into better trying to understand the Facebook, tweeting, selfie-taking, music and mobile phone obsessed universal enigma, otherwise known as the teenager. I’m not an expert, nor do I proclaim to be. I’ve definitely made a few mistakes along the way, both as a parent and stepparent. Now pop over to BeTeenUs to see a few of my survival guide tips.

All The Colours In Between Blog Tour 2017

 

The official launch of my second novel, All The Colours In Between, takes place tomorrow, 19th October, but the Blog Tour starts today – yay! That means you still have time to pre-order your copy, here and here. And you still have time to enter a giveaway competition I’m running on my Facebook page (ends 19th Oct) here, and a Goodreads competition (ends 26th October) here. unnamed-5

Some early reviews are already popping up and here’s what people are saying:

“If you like Marian Keyes, Jane Green (with a little Liane Moriarty thrown in) I think that you will thoroughly enjoy this book. It will give you all the feels. I really wanted to see how these characters got through the book and couldn’t put it down.” –Married Book Nerds

“…emotive, multi layered and a story that even the most hard hearted reader will find a highly emotional read.” –The Book Review Café

“All the Colours in Between is a powerful, emotional, and fast paced story about modern life in a blended family. It was a pure joy to read and I can’t wait for the next instalment in this family saga.” –Brew and Books Review

“Absolutely WOW, double wow, what a truly amazing, emotional and heartfelt read. The story was so brilliantly written.” –Nessa on Goodreads

“I LOVED IT! There is no sugar coating life here – relationships fail, family life is hard work to maintain, good things happen and shit happens. Eva Jordan gives us it all in a way that had me laughing out loud one minute – particularly with Salocin, the grandfather – and then crying the next. Five golden stars from me. –ClaireMS’s Reviews on Goodreads

 

Out Of Bad, Comes Good!

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The great thing about being a writer … is meeting other writers! Having met author, Louise Jensen, earlier this year, I was honoured when, in August, she kindly invited me to her book launch for the paperback version of her debut novel, The Sister, which took place at Waterstones, Market Harborough. Originally released as an ebook in July 2016 with digital publishers, Bookouture, The Sister has met with great success. However, when I first met Louise and we got chatting, I was both intrigued and surprised to find that the circumstances behind penning her first novel shared some similarities with my own journey. Louise, like me, always aspired to be an author and through no fault of her own, again like me, found herself victim to a set of circumstances that would forever affect her health. Finding she was less active and unable to do some of the things she was used to doing was, Louise admitted, a real struggle, and at times quite depressing. Little did she know, as she set about putting pen to paper, again, like me, it would be the start of her writing career and see a long awaited dream come true.

Louise has since written a second novel, The Gift, and her third novel, The Surrogate, was released last month and is already getting some rave reviews. Since writing, The Sister, with translation rights having been sold in 16 countries, Louise has also acquired a literary agent and has been signed to write another novel with Bookouture, with the paperback versions of her books now in the safe hands of Sphere (Little, Brown).

The book launch was a great success and all concerned had a great night. There was enough wine and nibbles to sink a battleship and even a cake, The Sister 1

although sadly I had to leave before I had chance to nab a slice. The only downside for me was my car journey home. What should have taken an hour instead turned into a rather wearisome two and half hours as I met with not one, not two, but three roadblocks! Nonetheless, I refused to get down, instead looking for something positive from my little detour. After all, as a writer, no experience is ever wasted, and, thankfully, I have a rather active imagination. So, as the Shat Nav in my car led me down one narrow, winding, and eerily dark country road after another, an idea for a story began to take root. Due to other commitments I’ve parked it for now, but, when I’m ready, I will no doubt resurrect it and put it to good use, my little diversion thus not a complete waste of time! Therefore, next time you find yourself in a situation you’d rather not be in, remember, as my unwanted little rendezvous suggests, and as Louise’s story proves, sometimes amazing things can happen as a result of difficult times in our lives, and, ultimately, out of bad, comes good.

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