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4.5 out of 5 stars
44
Conundrum
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 11 July 2013
A travel writer talks about a different sort of journey, the journey from male to female, from James to Jan.

Solitary because of inner conflicts and a sense of difference which developed mystic trappings, he prays to God to make him a girl. He took the girl's role in boarding school romances and he detested sports except for cross-country running. He said that it was not about testicle or womb about the self. He fantasised more about caress than copulation.

He explores the history of men cross-dressing and reckons that it was not until the Eighteenth Century that Western civilisation imposed rigid gender distinctions. In the past, cross-dressers didn't believe themselves to be women. He wonders about the nature versus nurture debate.

He had a satisfactory marriage based mainly upon friendship but he fathered five children. Sensuality was more important than intercourse, though he uses phallic imagery: tanks are mobile guns which fulfil only one purpose - brutal thrust

People wrongly assume, he says, that gender dysphoria is a choice and he contrasts the transvestite who gets a frisson from wearing female clothes to the transsexual for whom it is merely a sense of relief

His psychiatrist says that his fantasy could be reality but that he must be regarded as sane. They won't operate if he's psychotic. While waiting for the operation he has to try to remember which role to play when.

What did others think? The upper class tolerated mavericks and the Army was no exception. She was more approved of as esoteric than as homosexual. `Arabs asked me to go for walks with them.' `Young people in West didn't care.' S/he came out to the eldest son by leaving books lying around, S/he regrets not getting job done properly or having his opinion listened to and, in the future, thinks that people will not see sex as something fixed as people did in the past.

There is a good description of Cairo, ancient and modern and the book begins and ends with Sibelius.
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on 24 September 2016
What a memorable document for its time and for all time, an engaging account of a person, a life, and not just issues of sex and biology. JM is at pains to say what we now call gender dysphoria was a wider, deeper current in her life. What a wonderful love story too, of having been married, becoming fully female at last, being attracted to men at that point, having to divorce her wife because marriage had to be heterosexual and then... staying with Elizabeth and eventually being able to re-marry her in old age.

And, her travel writing is as wonderful. Up there with Thubron and the rest. Erudite, funny, everything you'd want. We are lucky to have this Welsh pantheist with us.
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on 13 January 2017
An extremely powerful book, telling about Morris' change of gender without a hint of sensationalism. Beautifully written i don't think it would be an exaggeration to say this felt to be one of the better books that I have read.
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on 8 November 2016
Cover - No cover on my old copy of the original edition

Contents

Purchased after seeing Michael Palin interview on BBC TV.

Purchased a copy from Blackwells through Amazon and they reneged on the order so will not use them again ... ever.

Interesting and I like the style of writing. I read on ...

Finished. A good informative read.

Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab!
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on 21 December 2014
Excellent ! A rare & immaculately written insight to a conundrum few of us are forced to face : "imagine not knowing who you are, then realising you aren't who you are". No need to imagine anymore, for this author beautifully and eloquently explains how it was for her - all entwined amongst fascinating family life, travel tales, high adventure and most of all, sensible, non-sensational descriptive explanation.
A truly beautiful book.
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on 23 July 2011
This is a well-written autobiographical account of how Jan Morris came to realise that she had been born in the wrong gender, and changed to become a woman. It is essential reading for anyone trying to understand their friends and acquaintances who have undergone this procedure.
It was written nearly forty years ago, and Jan Morris was born in the 1920s, so an added interest is her observations (from the point of view of someone of that generation) about how the two different genders are treated in social occasions.
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on 28 July 2017
I bought if for a friend at her request. She is delighted with it. Jan Morris writes so beautifully.
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on 16 July 2017
Interesting book if this situation or a similar one comes you way in life! Nicely written and touching story!
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on 16 March 2017
One of my favourite books. The author is intelligent, articulate, perceptive, humane, funny and compassionate, so the book is a joy to read. The honesty of the description of the journey from man to woman from one of our most famous travel writers, is "travel writing" in a whole different league. I was very deeply touched by it.
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on 14 December 2017
Just brilliant!
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