Sunday, May 22, 2011

Books on Women

Two new and different books on women:

Jocelyn features 11 women writers in her portraits. Some are highly educated and precocious; some are barely literate and writing under the most arduous or tragic circumstances. Some wrote journals; some, like Margaret Catchpole, a convicted horse thief eking her way as a convict in Australia, wrote letters. Daisy Ashford wrote a complete novel at 9 — and it’s still in print. Isabella Beeton wrote a manual of household management that influenced domestic life for generations.

For each woman, Jocelyn has written a short biography, supported and illustrated with a generous number of quotations from the woman’s writing. Thus each speaks for herself, with Jocelyn interpreting and elucidating what’s happening between the lines for her young readers.

The Search is difficult to read, simply because of the awful nature of the tale. Writing about sex without making it titillating is tough. But Akhtar describes the horrors of gang-rape painstakingly, cutting out explicit scenes which could eroticise the act. The post-war abuse of 30 years is tougher to digest. The landscape is eerie too — marshlands, lonely trees laden with fruits, abandoned houses, floods... Akhtar brings the human context of war alive with terrible beauty. The lack of linear progression compounds the desolation. Systemic rape continues to plague all ongoing conflict points in the world. In this backdrop, The Search assumes an ominous air.

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