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review 2019-03-20 02:09
Women Warriors: An Unexpected History
Women Warriors - Pamela D. Toler

I received this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

 

The phrase warrior women evokes many images, most with “boob” armor as a prominent feature however history tells a different story.  Women Warriors: An Unexpected History by Pamela D. Toler covers millennia of historical records and new archaeological discoveries from Shang China to modern day examining the women who went into battle in numerous ways.

 

Toler covers not only the more famous warriors like Boudica, Joan of Arc, Lakshmi Bai, Hua Mulan, the Trung Sisters, and Tomoe Gozen among others but also spread her reach to lesser known historical figures of prominence as well as “every day” women.  Toler brings to light many reasons why women went to war including adventure, defense of family and home, and surprising cultural as well.  Also examined is how contemporary and modern-day historical accounts of these women use many of the same phrases like “she fought like a man” thus bring to the forefront the seemingly universal gender role that war is to many societies—though not all.  Many of the women that Toler relates in her book, disguise themselves in men’s clothing and several continued using men’s clothing after their military service and one was “crossdressing” before she entered military service.  Finally Toler covered the recent turn in archaeological findings that not all burials that contained weapons were men, but many women and the raging debate on if those women were actual warriors and if those weapons were ceremonial—though if men were buried with jewelry it showed they were rich.

 

The book’s text covered roughly 210 pages, but many of those pages having a considerable amount of footnotes that were both positive and negative in the overall quality of the book.  Toler does focus on the famous few warriors, but spreads her eye to all parts of the globe and showed the diversity and commonality that all women warriors had.  Her criticism of how women warriors were depicted over the millennia and across cultures showed many of the same trends with relatively few exceptions—China.  However the book is far from perfect and while Toler packed a lot in 210 pages, she kept on repeating the same things over and over again including in her numerous footnotes.  It was one thing to say something critically in a witty and sarcastically way once thus making an impression and making the reader aware to look for future instances of what Toler was criticizing, but to repeatedly make wisecracks over the same criticisms again and again just resulted in them losing their effect and become tiresome.  Unfortunately the many repeated comments and footnotes makes one wonder if Toler had cut them out, if she could not have moved some of the interesting things she put in the footnotes because she “ran out of space” into the actual text if the book wouldn’t have come out better.

 

The overall Women Warriors: An Unexpected History is a nice primer and introduction to the many women who fought throughout history and the complex history surrounding them.  While Pamela D. Toler does a wonderful job in bringing many women to the spotlight, her repeated phrases—including overdone wittiness—and almost overly expansive footnotes take away from the quality of the book.

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review 2019-03-19 15:12
Finally an audio version that does justice to this particular book.
Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers,Mark Meadows

I don't know if this January 2019 release signals a new series of audios of all of Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, but if it does, please God let them all be narrated by Mark Meadows.  Although my overall favorites still remain the Ian Carmichael audios (not the BBC full cast dramatizations, but those where Carmichael actually narrates the unabridged novels themselves), there doesn't seem to be a full set of those available any longer, and the alternatives produced in the interim are of -- putting it gently -- extremely varied quality.** 

 

This is particularly true for the first Wimsey book, Whose Body?, where those looking for an audio version so far have had the choice between two ridiculously over the top, trying-too-hard (and thus failing) British versions -- one male, one female -- and an American version failing even worse, for incongruously incorporating what the narrator obviously thinks Wimsey's nasal upper crust voice would have sounded like into an otherwise unabashedly American accent. 

 

Imagine my delight, therefore, in listening to this Mark Meadows recording and finding that Meadows quite literally hits all the right notes; chiefly with Wimsey's own voice, but actually with those of all the characters and, notably, also with Sayers's own narrative voice ... and with extra brownie points for also getting the occasional French and German bits right, with only a slight English accent to boot.  So even if this recording doesn't usher in a full series of new Lord Peter Wimsey recordings -- although I hope it may -- it's definitely the one I'd recommend as the one to turn to for those audio- rather than print-edition minded.  Who knows, you may even end up finding you like the usually shrugged-on Whose Body? better -- or at any rate not any worse -- than some of the later Wimsey novels.  (Five Red Herrings and Unnatural Death do come to mind in that department ...)

___________________________________

 

** The one notable older, "non-Carmichael" audio I have yet to listen to is Patrick Malahide's recording of Five Red Herrings.  Even with, as BT reports, his Scots accent somewhat regionally "off", I can't imagine it to be anywhere near as awful as the so far exstant versions of Whose Body?, however.

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text 2019-03-19 03:29
Reading progress update: I've read 250 out of 365 pages.
The Island of Sea Women - Lisa See

These books always break my heart. 

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text 2019-03-18 17:20
Reading progress update: I've read 160 out of 365 pages.
The Island of Sea Women - Lisa See

I had such a good weekend. We cleaned up Jake's room and weeded the flower beds. Then walked almost 4 miles. And then today I wake up with a head cold. Of course. Thank God it's spring break and hubby took the week off. I'm going to lay around and do nothing but reas or stitch. 

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review 2019-03-18 12:39
This is more like it.
The Gazebo - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop

(More than The Alington Inheritance, that is.) -- Still a bit too much of a whiny heroine, but at least we're firmly back in true and trusted Maudie territory.  And it has to be said, while the victim is no Mrs. Boynton (cf. Agatha Christie, Appointment With Death), by the time she finally meets her end few would argue that the world is not a better place without her in it.

 

There are some shades of Grey Mask here (broken off engagement sends the hero to "forn parts", where he roams the wilderness for a few years until he starts missing the old country and returns, only to be plunged straight into his former / still beloved's latest messy circumstances: if there's one trope Wentworth can be said to be overusing, it's probably this one; e.g., it's also the premise of Miss Silver Comes to Stay, and with a twist, of The Traveller Returns / aka She Came Back, and a key character's surprise return also features importantly in The Watersplash, albeit minus broken off engagement) -- and although this is emphatically not an inverted mystery, both the whodunnit and the core "why" is pretty obvious from the get-go.  (Or I've just read too many stories of that type.  But Wentworth really isn't exactly subtle about this particular bit.)  Despite a valiant attempt on Wentworth's part at creating a plausible back story for the "who" and "why", the motive still feels a bit contrived ... or let's say, it's the kind of thing that pretty much only Arthur Conan Doyle could get away with (or the creators of mysteries for young readers, where it's a particular favorite).  But at least Wentworth's attempt here is not any worse than those of other authors using this particular trope.

 

Most of all, though, Wentworth's fine eye for character(s) and human interactions shines once again -- in the portrayal of abusive relationships (there are several here) as well as the creation of the comic relief, in this instance, three gossipping old-maidish sisters -- who in another book might easily have had a different role (and indeed the local gossip is portrayed extremely negatively in The Alington Inheritance) but here it's clear that they are essentially harmless and, indeed, ultimately even helpful to the investigation.  And of course, watching Maudie and her most devoted fan (Frank Abbott) is always a joy.

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