chestnut book blog

Read. Recommend. Revel.



The latest copy of Mslexia dropped onto my door mat yesterday. Mslexia is a quarterly magazine ‘for women who write’, a tagline which sums it up nicely I think. I subscribed about four years ago when I was doing a creative writing course and since then I’ve considered cancelling it many times (not really being a writer!), only for the latest issue to arrive and remind me how wonderful it is! It has thought-provoking features in every issue, book and blog recommendations and brilliant author interviews. It is helping me to be a better reader as well due to the fiction masterclasses. Finally, the bedside table article on the back page is a firm favourite of mine. It is always interesting to have a snoop at the books by someone’s bedside table  and this lets me do it in a polite way! In that spirit, at the moment I have Gormenghast, The Official Programme of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close on my bedside table (or on a semi-neat pile on the floor nearby!).

Mslexia and How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran

Mslexia and How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran

Whilst Mslexia has a female agenda, I read a much more stridently feminist book recently; a self-described ‘rant’! I know I’m a little late coming to How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran as most female readers I know read it a long time ago, but I’ve finally got round to it. I think I’d been avoiding it because the ‘rant’ description definitely put me off! It was described on the back cover as ‘the funniest intelligent book ever written’. I think that is a bit of an exaggeration to be honest. There are many important questions and issues raised in this book, but I have to admit I didn’t find it particularly funny, just a bit filthy at times. It is entirely possible I just missed it though as it didn’t always have my full attention, particular the first half. I found the chapters towards the end, about fashion, children, role models and abortion the most interesting and they did make me think. I was very moved by her account of a traumatic birth and Moran wrote well about abortion – one of the most difficult topics imaginable. However, in my opinion, this book is most successful in simply asking the questions about why we accept misogyny in our everyday lives, why it is still a problem in the 21st century and why it is just stupid. This is particularly pertinent to me in light of the deeply offensive comments of Todd Akin in the U.S about rape. I am certainly a feminist as defined by believing in equality and fair treatment and feel we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, the older I get, the more I encounter / witness appalling sexism and so I am becoming more likely to ‘rant’ about it myself!