In Search of Mary: The Mother of All Journeys Paperback – 15 Oct 2015
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'It's brilliantly funny, poignant and important... Laugh, cry and be moved by the original feminist adventure with the brilliant Bee Rowlatt as your fun-loving friend.' --Shami Chakrabarti
'Rowlatt's passion for Wollstonecraft leaps out of every page, the intervening centuries disappear: it's as if they are on a journey together.' --TV historian Dan Snow
'An excellent exploration of the rights and roles of women, two centuries apart.' --The Independent Books of the Year: The best biography and memoirs of 2015
About the Author
Bee Rowlatt is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. She is a regular contributor to The Daily Telegraph and has reported for the World Service, Newsnight and BBC2. The co-author of the best-selling Talking about Jane Austen in Baghdad (Penguin 2010) as well as one of the writers featured in Virago's 2013 anthology Fifty Shades of Feminism, Bee won the K Blundell Trust award for In Search of Mary. She has four children and lives in London.
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My copy has already been read by both myself and a teenage daughter, so it's a definite 5 star book.
As a biography, IN SEARCH OF MARY is a lively introduction to the great (and greatly under-appreciated) feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft.
As a travelogue, it is a fabulously entertaining account of author Bee Rowlatt’s journeys with her toddler son as she seeks insights about Wollstonecraft, feminism, motherhood, and other gender-loaded questions from Norwegian sea captains, Parisian academics, Californian porn stars.
As an extended essay, IN SEARCH OF MARY is an utterly readable examination of such complex subjects as the pleasures and perils of travel, the causes and consequences of revolution, the challenges of women’s work in all its various guises, the impact of class and culture on women’s issues, the ephemerality of life, and the enduring nature of love.
(Full disclosure: since Bee and Will stayed with us for a few nights during the Californian part of their travels, my family and I make a brief appearance in this book.)
An OK read, somewhat self indulgent and perhaps more entertaining as a travelogue, but OK.
My main gripes?
Written in three parts, the first is set in Scandinavia, the second, Paris, the third? The third .... California? Hmm! Really?
I felt that, if not exactly knowing more about her, I certainly came away understanding a lot more about the admittedly affluent and privileged Bee Rowlatt and little more about Mary.
Whilst the book touched on many 'feminist' issues (not least of which 'how the feminist perspective accommodates motherhood'), it never quite 'answered' them or at least not in any great depth, leaving me to wonder if perhaps the author had (to use one of my nana's expressions) bitten off more than she could chew; that she wasn't such an expert on Mary as to give (let alone make) any real sense of her life.
The two things to recommend it?
The differing dialogues (that of the author and reader and that of the author and Mary) make this an interesting introduction to Mary. If nothing else it certainly made me eager to know more about her.
Read as a lone reader it was fine but, I think, to read it as a book club read will add a whole other dimension. I'm certainly looking forward to discovering what the others made of it.
Copyright: Tracy Terry @ Pen and Paper