I find spy novels ridiculous and, although American Spy is elaborately staged and includes a clever family and romantic back story, I did not enjoy the spying bits, of which they are many. But you might!
Tag Archives: women
The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History tells the stories of the female artists who, when allowed by a fiercely male-dominated system, contributed essential story lines and lovely details to Disney movies. Think Dumbo’s “Baby Mine” song, or Cinderella’s mice. It’s astonishing that their names did not appear in the credits, as did many of their male counterparts’, that they worked on minute salaries, and that they were the first to be fired when the studio hit financial troubles. Along the way, the author also talks about the many technological changes that transformed animated movies–and we get to revisit all the classic movies. A treat.
*** A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Eldrick
Martha Ballard, of A Midwife’s Tale likely hand idea that her diary would one day be the object of learned discovery. She wrote it as a cross between a weather almanac, a recitation of the house chores she accomplished every day, the babies she delivered and patients she helped, complete with an accounting of payments, and a list of house guests. And a mass murder or two (really!) But patiently analyzed, the diary also revealed wedding customs (lots of very early babies!), her difficult relationship with her husband, her wayward son, the peril of the frozen river that separated her from half of her patients, the complicated relationships between midwives and doctors, and how overwhelming women’s chores could be, with lots of children and no appliances or read-bought anything. Highly recommended for a glimpse at the lives of everyday women in the late 18th century.
A Life of My Own is a memoir by a writer who specializes in biographies, so it’s an opportunity to observe a professional at work. She includes plenty of personal commentary on her own life, from her fractured childhood between divorced parents, at a time when it was a matter of shame, and during WWII to boot, to her own difficult marriage, and moving accounts of her children, living and dead, and an especially poignant portrait of a son who was born with spina bifida. Her professional life, although very successful in the end, was tough at first, when she could not find a professional job despite her Cambridge degrees. Society has made some progress since then, it seems.
The Testaments is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, although it stands on its own, and, coming twenty years after it, it further highlights the eerie intuitions of the author about men-led dictatorships, not to mention the MeToo movement. Written cleverly and seamlessly by three women, one with considerable power and two who can only be described as rebels, it describes how the bleakest of oppressive powers can be brought down by apparently powerless agents. Chilling, but inspiring. I almost gave it four stars.
Virginia Hall, the heroin of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, was a spirited, rich, well-educated woman who dreamt of a career in diplomacy. But barred from it by discrimination against women and the disabled (she had been amputated of a leg after a hunting accident), she instead launched a highly dangerous mission to help the French resistance against the Nazi occupants, and indeed the French government that collaborated with them. Under a flimsy cover as a journalist, she organized networks, befriended everyone, and coordinated shipments of money, weapons, and supplies. The author provides abundant documentation from archives and interviews, with the result a lively, even griping story. (It is a little puzzling that she gets the famous poem used to announce D-day slightly wrong,)
Virginia Hall would be treated callously after the war, as perhaps could be expected of smart women at that time. Shame!