The Word For Freedom – Short Stories Of Women’s Sufferage – Edited By Amanda Saint and Rose McGinty

Publisher: Retreat West

Publication Date: 1st November 2018

As a reader I don’t usually gravitate towards short story collections but just recently I have been giving them a shot. When I was asked if I wanted to read The Word For Freedom, I jumped at the chance, mainly because it’s an anthology of stories surrounding the topic of women’s sufferage.

I was woefully lacking in knowledge with regards to this subject until I read Nevertheless She Persisted by Jon Watson a couple of months ago. This book piqued my interest in the women’s sufferage movement so I knew, or hoped, that this collection of stories should further whet my appetite.

This anthology has been put together by Retreat West to support the charity Hestia and their UK Says No More campaign against domestic abuse and sexual violence.

These 24 stories are probably the best group of short stories I have read. They are cohesive, despite being set in myriad different time periods.  All written by female authors with female protagonists, the voices in these stories are so rich and varied. From a young girl being taken to Pakistan for an arranged wedding, a woman preparing to bring her sexual abuser to trial, Christobel Pankhurst sitting in a broom cupboard in the Houses Of Parliament (I know!) and a Mermaid who sacrifices her water world for ours in the name of love (who doesn’t love a mermaid I ask ya?!). I was entranced by every single one, and I mean Every. Single. One.  There were no duds, because lets face it, with short story collections there is often a story or two that you don’t connect with as much.  Not so with this collection.

They vary in length from 2 pages to around 10 pages maximum.  I found the shorter stories very powerful indeed, and greatly admire a writer who can pack an emotional punch and leave you a bit winded over 2 pages! such skillful writing.

There were certain stories that gave me the shivers (in a good way), and ones that actually made me well up.  I liked the way that the contemporary stories gave me pause to think about how they were linked into the sufferage movement and the events of the past and the effects this has had on women’s lives in the modern day world.

Thought provoking and utterly absorbing, this collection made me proud to be a woman and profoundly grateful for the sacrifices those brave women made.  These tales of strength in the face of such adversity made me feel humble but also empowered.

I’m urging anyone and everyone to get their hands on this collection and spread the word.  The word for freedom.

Thank you as always to Anne Cater and the lovely folk at Retreat West for this review copy.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xx

The Bus On Thursday By Shirley Barrett – A Review

Publisher: Fleet

Guys! What have I just read?!?

This book is absolutely bonkers in a fabulous way! One of those books that as you’re reading you’re thinking really?!?! Is this for real?…..

Eleanor’s life is in a bit of a mess to say the very least. She has just broken up with her boyfriend, and is recovering from breast cancer. After an ill judged and ill advised pass made at her middle aged cancer specialist doctor, a disastrous blind date and some pretty serious soul-searching, Eleanor decides to take the job of teacher at the school in a small town called Talbingo. (The book is set in Australia by the way).

Talbingo’s former teacher has mysteriously disappeared and everyone in town is devastated, not least the schoolchildren. But not everything is as it seems in Talbingo, with the locals acting strangely and what was supposed to be Eleanor’s tranquil, stress free road to recovery becoming anything but!

Just what exactly has happened to former teacher Miss Barker? Eleanor is about to find out, whether she wants to know or not……

This book is like some wild, trippy rollercoaster ride when you’ve had too much coffee!

Told in the form of an unpublished personal blog, Eleanor tries to make sense of all that has happened in her personal life and all that is happening to her in her new life in Talbingo.

When faced with stepping into perfect Miss Barkers shoes, Eleanor finds herself falling drastically short. Especially when she lets a four letter tirade out on her poor pupils. She’s not the most accomplished of teachers shall we say….

Let us draw a veil over parent-teacher night.

It did not go so well.

Selected highlights:

Arrived late, swollen eyes, had obviously been crying.

Could not get slide show working, in spite of extensive dicking around with computer.

Forgot to cover up love bites – parents commented.

Kept getting kids names wrong.

Pushed to the end of her tether when weird experience after weird experience seems to befall her, Eleanor doesn’t want to admit defeat and flee Talbingo. Some of the scrapes she gets herself into will have you cringing with embarrassment on her behalf. But she fronts it out even when the local pastor ‘The Praying Mantis’ blames her for bringing on her cancer herself and tries to ‘exorcise her demon’.

She’s such a hilarious character despite her obvious devastating cancer diagnosis. She has a unique type of ‘gallows humour’ which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (and I don’t think will be every readers cup of tea either) but I found her voice very refreshing and straight to the point. She certainly doesn’t pull any punches!

Here’s a tip: Never Google ‘what does breast cancer metastasis feel like?’ Turns out it feels like just about anything! Here are some metastasis symptoms I’ve experienced in the last three days: feeling tired, feeling under the weather, cold or flu like symptoms, headache, feeling like you’ve pulled a muscle, tingling sensation in arms, blah blah blah blah blah

Clearly I am riddled with the fucker.

I think she may be one of my favourite female protagonists.  She is flawed and she knows it.  She owns her mistakes and takes lots of rough stuff on the chin! If i’d have been through half of the awful events Eleanor has, I’d be a gibbering wreck on the floor!

The fact that this book is told in the format of a blog makes it feel very conversational, as if you’re having a chat with Eleanor in front of you.  The chapters are fairly short and broken down into smaller chunks within.  This made it feel like a very speedy, accessible read.

I would liken this book to a macabre Bridget Jones with less romance and more horror. There’s a very sinister edge to it but in a comedic vein.  It kept me so entertained from page one right through to the end.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think that there are many themes running through it, some which I would like definitive answers to. I made some assumptions about the characters and events along the way and I’d like to know if I’m right!  In that respect I think this would make a great book club read. I don’t think it would be to everyone’s taste and I think it could divide opinion but I would recommend it heartily no question, and no doubt it would provoke some very interesting discussions!

I will say that I had to ask out on Twitter about the ending…….I just wasn’t sure I’d quite ‘got it’.  However, having spoken to someone else I have found that we interpreted it in much the same way so I’m relieved about that! (again the ending could provoke some very interesting discussions!).

All in all this book is an absolute blast! It’s bonkers but it’s brilliant!

Get involved!

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xxx