How to be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the only book I have ever read that actually rings true to my own experience as a woman. I came of age in the Bridget Jones era, where everyone was saying how relatable those books were and I was thinking ‘um…no’, so to read this was a revelation.

I am so totally in love with this book because it’s so true, and so accurate and so right. The chapters on hair and fat are particularly wonderful. Her perceptive analysis of binge eating is something that really hit home. But there is so much in it, weaving the personal and political and cultural, and hitting targets with pinpoint accuracy. The style is so chatty and light that when those observational gems jump out and hit you, their power takes the breath away.

Also, being me, I was interested in her biographical bits about the music industry (gotta find out who Courtney was…). The laddishness of Britpop came rushing back to me and reminded me all over again why I wasn’t keen on it at the time. And all the stuff about making up relationships in your head… to be honest I thought this was a weird ADHD thing but maybe it isn’t. Of course, if I had talked to neurotypical women more then maybe I would have known that. But we don’t talk about the stuff that matters, as Moran points out a few times in this book.

The writing isn’t flawless, and there were occasions where the style grated on me a little, but this is one of those situations where the experience and the insight, packaged in spiky humour and sharp observation, overwhelm any possible downsides. It is a good book in terms of writing. It is a great book in terms of importance. And that earns it four stars from me.

And also, having read some of the criticism levelled from other reviewers, I can see why I like it so much. I isn’t meant to be a big serious book about feminism, it’s simply one woman’s take on what it is like to be a woman in this day and age in this culture. It never claims to be anything else. And yes, I probably relate to it so much because the writer is similar to me in terms of age, background, experience, taste, culture etc. (though obviously she is waaaaaay cooler). Others reading it and looking for themselves and their experience in it may find some bits don’t relate to them. That’s fine -go and write your own book about your experience of being a woman. I might even read it and broaden my understanding. I also suspect that her worldview (that we are often becoming a little too divided by our ‘identities’, when essentially we all just want to be one of the same human family) is currently out of fashion, though it’s one I wholeheartedly share.

I am definitely keeping a copy on my shelves for my sons to read when they’re a bit older.

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