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A Short History of Women

A Novel

By Kate Walbert

A Short History of Women
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2009,
    256 pages.

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There are currently 16 reader reviews for A Short History of Women
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Lori J. (Nutter Fort, WV) (06/14/09)

Slow but enjoyable
Not a page turner, but worth the effort. It was rich in detail that I am certain I did not fully absorb. I will save it for a while and read it again to put all of the pieces together.
Laura L. (Providence, RI) (06/01/09)

A short history of women
This book was hard to follow at times, but I enjoyed the themes she wrote about. The author was able to show how our family of origin subtly influences who we are today, even if we know little about our ancestors. This was done well as she often went back and forth in history to get this point across. I also enjoyed the overall theme of women's place in the world and if it really has changed since the 19th century. Because of the difficulty I had following characters I do not know If I would have finished this book if I had not received a review copy, the difficulty might have outweighed the good themes.
Shelly B. (Staten Island, NY) (05/30/09)

A Short History of Women
I had high hopes for this novel. The story is the kind of book I love to read. I couldn't get past page 40. The writing style and the history lesson was boring and dry. The characters' internal dialog was confusing. I had a hard time following the different random thoughts of the characters.

The characters were stilted, underdeveloped, and did not come alive. I didn't care what happened to them.
Sue Ellen S. (CEDAR FALLS, IA) (05/25/09)

A Great Choice for Book Clubs
I can't wait for my book club buddies to read this book! I predict that it will resonate with them and lead to meaningful discussion about what it means to be present in this world. What does it mean to matter? Will our daughters and granddaughters answer these questions as we do? At one point in the novel, a 77-year-old woman writes on her blog: "When I think about it, I think how long it takes to clear your throat, and by that I mean, to say anything true. ... I am trying to find MY VOICE. I am trying to SAY WHAT I MEAN. I am BEING PRESENT." Author Kate Walbert finds her voice and hits her stride in this excellent chronicle of five generations of women striving to be true to self—at times almost in spite of themselves.
Susan S. (Lafayette, CA) (05/24/09)

Disappointing
This book has a great opening phrase - "Mum starved herself for suffrage" are the first five words - giving me high hopes for the book, but it did not fulfill them. Overall, I found it slow and hard to finish. I did not mind the structure, which jumps around in time among several different generations of the same family, but I never could see any point to the various sections as interconnected pieces. Individual sections are entertaining, and the author writes well, with kind of clean, spare prose that I usually really like, but unfortunately there was nothing compelling about the build-up of sections as I moved from one to the next. I just could not see what it all added up to.
Robert F. (Charleston, IL) (05/22/09)

Challenging and rewarding
A Short History of Women begins with this sentence: “Mum starved herself for suffrage, Grandmother claiming it was just like Mum to take a cause too far.” Mum is Dorothy Trevor, and the narrator is her daughter. From this intriguing starting point, the novel cycles back and forth through four generations of Dorothy Trevor’s descendants in England and America, focusing on the women and their sons. At first I found this structure challenging, mainly because the shifts are not chronological and jump ahead from 1914 to 2003, then back to 1898 and later to 2007. But eventually the connections begin to take hold, and the echoes and parallels among the generations create a rich pattern of reform, rebellion, and reaction to the history and politics of the times—from World War I to the invasion of Iraq and beyond.

The style is also challenging at first. Some of the first-person sections are like a stream of consciousness; we’re taken inside the narrator’s head, following her train of thoughts and emotions. But, again, I grew accustomed to the style. Reading this novel is something like breaking a code. Putting the pieces together is rewarding and enlightening. And the women are complicated, varied, and always interesting.
Robin F. (tucson, az) (05/20/09)

A short history of women
If you have a curiosity about the early days of women's struggles to independence, this book answers some of those questions. Initially, it was difficult for me to keep the characters straight and I did have to go back and reread sections. However, I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it as a bookclub selection.
Lee M. (Creve Coeur, Missouri) (05/19/09)

A Short History of Women
WOW, so it didn't start in the 60's with Steinem and Friedan! Kate Walbert's book is a wonderful exploration of women, their foibles and their victories. Should be required reading for all our teenagers.
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