on 20 April 2010
The book came with glowing references from a couple of knitting authors whose books I loved reading. When I got to the end of the book I re-read their words of praise and was left confused and perplexed. I'm a Brit, so I've experienced some North American writing that doesn't cross 'the pond' well. This book certainly didn't, despite the author's obvious admiration of people such as Barbara Kingsolver, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee & Annie Modesitt, whose books inform, entertain, and reduce me to tears and laughter, often in the same chapter, and while rooted in their North American culture can reach out to people across the world.
This book isn't going to make it beyond the knitting readership, so some of the descriptions of stitches and techniques were far too basic, and in my opinion not always accurate. I found that tedious.
The multitude of interviews with well known knitters and authors didn't fit with what the book was promising at its beginning. In fact from about half way through the book I got the impression that the author was fed up with both the sweater and writing the book, and this was one way of meeting her page number quota.
There was so much that she could have written about the details of knitting Mary Tudor and it just wasn't there. That was a great disappointment to me. Then some of the choices she made, especially given her ready access to such experienced knitters, just seemed contrived and designed to try and create a funny story. She had available to her all the expertise to ensure she could knit her sweater and have it fit her. A chapter on that process alone would have been incredibly interesting and very helpful to knitters wanting to knit their own Starmore. The incident at the end with the cat and wooly board was very funny but was ruined by her avoiding the too obvious solution to put the wooly board in a room away from the cat and shut the door. She can write amusingly, but incidents like this left me forgetting the occasions when she hits the nail on the head.
She had obviously done some research into Alice Starmore, and had access to, and interviewed some amazing people. But the research seemed to have ignored Alice's own writings in her earlier books. Insight about, "what makes a sweater a Starmore", are touched upon by Alice herself in some of her earlier books. For example in The Fair Isle Knitting Handbook on page 45, when talking about designing Fair Isle, she writes, "I hope that they will inspire you to branch out in your own direction".
I feel that in this book the author, who obviously can write well and amusingly, missed exploring what appeared to be of great concern to her - what she perceives SHOULD be the personality and character of someone with the talent, some would say genius, of Alice Starmore. She wrote about some of what Starmore has written, and is reported to have done and said, in a way that left me feeling she was personally offended by Starmore's personality, and was aggrieved that someone like her should be blessed with so much talent and the desire to share it with others through her work. Perhaps an interview with Starmore herself, and more structured, focused interviews with the people in the book, would have helped the author understand her personal dichotomy and this would have been an interesting and informative read.
I was left frustrated at what this author could have achieved given her ability as a writer, her interest in Alice Starmore, and her access to a number of 'knitting goddesses'.
Finally, a warning to anyone who has been touched by serious post-partum depression/psychosis. Skip the first page - some people have managed to write about their personal experience in a way that is helpful, supportive, reduces stigma, and can even make you laugh while you cry - this author, while I am delighted she survived her personal ordeal, and went on to experience the joy of a second baby unblighted by this serious condition, didn't, I feel, manage to write about it helpfully.