In Praise of Difficult Women-my Review
I'll be covering the complete spectrum of review ratings
Note: I bought this book with my own money, with no expectation of a positive review.
This will most likely be the most difficult review I've ever written. This is just because I'll be covering the complete spectrum of review ratings. Let's see what happens.
To begin, I'd like to address the word "tough" in the title. You might doubt the use of this word after reading this book. Yes, anyone who knew, worked with, or was related to the women in this book would easily describe them as challenging. However, as I read the book, I found myself pausing because I perceived these women to be challenging. That word, in my opinion, is insufficient to characterize them. They pushed the envelope and shattered barriers. Many of the difficult people I know don't do that. They're just egotistically difficult. The mere mention of the word enticed me to pick up the book. I'm guessing it's the correct term.
The women included in this book are all trendsetters. They took societal norms and put them to the test in their own distinctive ways. Some people simply chose to ignore society. Others battled and disobeyed the law. A few people didn't challenge on purpose; they were simply themselves. Regardless of the reasons for their "aggressive" behavior, women refused to listen to men of the day tell them what to do. Most of them were from a time when women didn't have nearly as many rights as they do now, when society dictated how a woman should act, or when it was difficult for a woman to provide a voice at all.
As I read the story, I saw a pattern. In terms of political opinions, the majority of these women were on the far left. It was then revealed that the author shared their beliefs. That disappointed me because I had hoped for a broader selection. There are also moderate or right-wing women who might be deemed challenging or trailblazers. If the author had included them, I believe the novel would have been more well-rounded. However, the author appeared to have a personal agenda in this regard, as she was eager to make digs at the opposing side. "Difficult Mostly Liberal Women" could have been a better title. That would have been a better way to describe the book. I would have read it anyhow if I hadn't had different expectations. There is one conservative, yet she holds liberal ideas in comparison to the majority of supporters in her country. Nonetheless, I can admit that she was unpleasant to be around.
This is an amazing group of women. Justice Ginsberg, Elizabeth Taylor, Billie Jean King, Coco Chanel, and many others were among those I was familiar with. Then there were a few names that aroused my interest because I had never heard of them before. Josephine Baker was one of them. This was a lady who came from obscurity to challenge Europe and America at a time when her gender and color were not widely accepted. I started a list of ladies I wanted to learn more about on my own. As I read more of the book, my list grew longer. In fact, I believe the author might have doubled or quadrupled this list and yet not covered all of the "difficult" ladies we should investigate further.
I can see that the author is a strong supporter of each of these women. Even the negative parts of them are highlighted. They are shown as flawless, which bothered me as I read. Yes, even their flaws can teach us a lot, but they didn't seem to have any. Extremely prejudiced against these women. That is not to suggest that it is a terrible thing, but it is an observation made in this book. I began to see it as a way to see their "difficult" characteristics in a good light and see what we can learn from them.
As I read the book, I couldn't help but feel enraged at the injustices that many of these women had to endure because of their gender or color. We live in a different era, one that is still in need of improvement, but it is so much better today. I was born during many of these women's eras of fame, but I don't believe in putting women down and evaluating people based on their birth circumstances. As a result, this novel elicited an emotional response from me. That is commendable work by the author.
This author's writing style kept me entertained. She doesn't hold back, injecting humor, sarcasm, and a unique perspective on the topics. She is direct and does not edit quotes. I'm glad because it gives me a better understanding of the woman she's writing about. However, be aware that some of them are a little crude or use language that some people would find offensive.
As the selection of women grew to include women from different countries, a number of expressions in their native tongues were used. Most of the time, the author did not explain what those English phrases meant. Some I was aware of, but others I was unaware of. Soon, I'll have to look them up.
A wonderful book, in my opinion, is one that keeps me thinking about its contents long after I've finished reading it. That's exactly what this book did. Along the way, I made notes about women and events that I wanted to learn more about. I was nevertheless dissatisfied with the book's biased tone. That made me feel bad about it. The book was overly supportive of these women, rarely addressing their flaws as flaws. The flaws were revealed to be the source of their difficulties. While this is undoubtedly correct, it appeared to be overly supportive of all of their acts.
Another thing to mention is that I did not "read" this book. I choose to listen to the audiobook. As a result, my viewpoints may be influenced by the narrator's presentation.
I'd want to conclude by saying that this book taught me a lot. Not just about the individual women, but also about thought-provoking issues that I pondered for a long time. I learned a lot from this book. Take a look at this book if you want to understand more about history, women, and yourself.