Customer Review

351 of 395 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Banal and unoriginal, 29 July 2011
This review is from: How To Be a Woman (Paperback)
I bought this book on a whim, having read a couple of rather mixed reviews. In that context, I was anticipating something entertaining and mildly stimulating. I was not expecting Isiah Berlin. But even against those less-than-demanding criteria, this book disappoints hugely.

Caitlin Moran entered journalism as a teenager, after winning competitions in national broadsheets including The Observer and The Times. Tellingly, these are omitted from this largely autobiographical book, which instead has her entering journalism at 16 when she went to work for Melody Maker. No doubt this version of history is more consistent with the edgy rise from working class obscurity she seeks to portray. I'm three years younger than Moran, and used to read her columns in my parents' copy of the Times, until I left home at 18, switched my allegiance to The Guardian, and lost track of her. So it was a strange experience to pick up this book and discover that, in terms of her attitudes and prose style, she seems to have become frozen in time as that precocious 16 year old - a kind of journalistic Dorian Gray. But what was endearing in a teenager is utterly infuriating - and oddly jarring- in a mature woman. The language is relentlessly mannered, with copious use of capitals and outdated slang from the 90s. This I could forgive if the book contained a single original idea, but the content is as banal, derivative and vacuous as the prose.

Take the chapter where she bemoans the lack of suitable female role models, and bizarrely juxtaposes Philip Roth with Demi Moore, Kim Cattrall and Madonna. This is simply baffling- comparing not so much apples and oranges as apples and donkeys. I don't even think she's trying to make the arguably valid but hardly original point that male writers tend towards the magisterial, zeitgeist-defining, century-spanning 'great novel', whereas women writers have tended to excel more at the (less esteemed) minute examination of the interior, domestic life. If she were, she might have found Margaret Attwood, Helen Simpson, or Anne Tyler more illuminating comparators than Moore et al. But by this stage you have started to form the impression that Moran's vision is entirely bounded by the confines of her media existence- a suspicion confirmed when you reach the Acknowledgements section and realise that, family aside, you recognise a good half of these names from the narrow world of broadsheet and TV journalism.

Ultimately, this is not a book about feminism at all- it's a not terribly interesting memoir with a spurious theme bolted on. Moran wants to validate her own preferences (burlesque clubs but not strip joints; Lady Gaga but not Katie Price), but she does not have the creativity or intellectual ability of, say, Camille Paglia, to do so convincingly. And speaking of Paglia, here's a funny thing. Only one feminist writer/thinker is namechecked in the entire book- Germaine Greer. If you are purporting to write a book about modern feminism, I'm not sure whether that speaks to arrogance, ignorance, or extreme laziness, but it's hardly impressive.

It could be argued that this book has some utility if it introduces WAG-obsessed young female readers of celebrity gossip magazines to a semblance of feminist ideas, in a language they'll readily identify with. But as a commentary on modern feminism for the mature, intelligent woman, it's a dead loss. If that's what you're looking for, give this a miss and try Natasha Walter, Maureen Dowd or Barbara Ehrenreich instead.
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Comments

Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Jul 2011 13:38:14 BDT
Great, well written review - highlights every reason why I thought this book sounded dreadful. Also 'journalistic Dorian Gray' - excellent! Made me laugh!

Posted on 8 Aug 2011 18:53:10 BDT
J. Praetzel says:
This review was far more entertaining, intelligent and insightful than the pages of the book I previewed. I'd rather pay to read more of your writing! Thank you!

Posted on 12 Aug 2011 11:25:07 BDT
Civi says:
Great review. Wraps up my thoughts exactly on this book. What a waste of time and money!

Posted on 12 Aug 2011 15:16:45 BDT
yes, the best review I've read on Amazon. Please do some more.

Posted on 18 Sep 2011 08:44:47 BDT
GaileL says:
Just wish I'd read this review before I bought the book. Am giving up on this drivel!

Posted on 29 Sep 2011 19:02:23 BDT
Last edited by the author on 29 Sep 2011 19:20:45 BDT
Jasmine says:
"And speaking of Paglia, here's a funny thing. Only one feminist writer/thinker is namechecked in the entire book- Germaine Greer. If you are purporting to write a book about modern feminism, I'm not sure whether that speaks to arrogance, ignorance, or extreme laziness, but it's hardly impressive."

Julie Burchill, Camille Paglia and Suzanne Moore are all namechecked in Chapter 4, page 85. I found Caitlin Moran's "funny things" funnier than yours.

Posted on 13 Oct 2011 20:15:55 BDT
Sue North says:
Was going to buy this for my friend (who is mature and intelligent), now looking ( or possibly not) at it for my WAG obsessed teenage daughter!

Posted on 21 Oct 2011 19:44:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Oct 2011 19:44:29 BDT
Rosey Lea says:
You've solved a mystery! Thank you!

I've often wondered how Caitlin Moran became a working journalist at 16! As someone the same age as her, I could never understand how she became an instant journalist and NME writer at 16. Reading your review, and thus learning that her stepping stones were competition wins it all becomes clear! (Nothing against competition wins, but it does explain the instant leg-up.)

Thank you :)

NB - Love your review, would prefer to read more of you than the book!

Posted on 23 Oct 2011 10:02:06 BDT
bookshelf says:
Thanks for the great review.
My thoughts exactly!

Posted on 22 Jan 2012 15:55:24 GMT
Booklover says:
I couldn't have it better. If the book had been as well written as this review, I'd have enjoyed it considerably more.
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