Book review: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

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Not That Kind of Girl
by Lena Dunham

★★★★
Edition: Paperback
Published: 23/02/2017
Publisher: Fourth State

 

I have read loads of books since the beginning of 2017. Well, not as many as I’d have liked but it’s been a busy year. However, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on a particular book that made me smile and laugh. It made me feel nostalgic and I ended up taking it everywhere with me: to the office, on the tube and even to some dates with my boyfriend where I hoped to have the chance to open it up while I waited for him to arrive…

This book claims to be for readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris and it is a collection of hilarious, poignant, and extremely frank  personal essays written by Lena Dunham – the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s ‘Girls’.

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If you type ‘Lena Dunham’ or ‘GIRLS’ on Google, you would find thousands of sites about them. There is so much that is being said on both the author and her series. What is true and what isn’t? You need to find out for yourself and create your own opinion, and that’s what Lena Dunham has taught me: it is fine to have your own voice so in spite of all the bad reviews out there, let me tell you that I found this book witty, interesting, charming and funny. The book is divided in essays and yes, I got lost in some of them but eventually I found myself again, laughing so much I thought I was going to cry.

I’ve run into a lot of people who don’t like Lena Dunham. In reality, I didn’t find her that interesting at the beginning either. I thought – is her only purpose to appear naked in every episode of her series? But you know what? I don’t really care. There are so many hot girls who appear naked everywhere and what if she wants to show her own body and put herself out there? I say YES to that. She’s hot and intelligent and deserves credit not only for the series she created, but for the lessons she teaches everyone of us.

Yes, that is her. Yes, she puts herself out there and shows everyone that you shouldn’t (even for one second) be ashamed of who you are. Even if you are not a size 8, if you have anxiety, OCD or kissed a girl back when you were at school. So what? You are gold, and precious and kind.

And no, this book didn’t changed my life but I enjoyed it. I found myself there (as I am sure a lot of people did) and Lena Dunham has some great life lessons to teach us all. If you liked GIRLS, give it a go because you’ll like this. She lives up to her voice and that’s nice.

So here’s to you Lena, five big, shiny stars.

You can read more about Not That Kind of Girl here
And if you feel like reading it, click here to buy the book.

 

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Book review: Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

Mad Girl
By Bryony Gordon

9781472232083

Publication: 7th June 2016
Hardback / eBook
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group

Mad Girl – Bryony Gordon’s latest book – is everywhere, just as The Wrong Knickers was when it came out a couple of years ago. And now I understand why.

Just so you know a bit more about this title…

Bryony Gordon has OCD. It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty. It’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

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 I LOVED this book. It made me laugh and it made me cry and it showed me reality. In a world of social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat) – in which all that matters is your pretty, happy and smiley face – it’s so INSPIRING to find someone who speaks up and makes you realise that hey, it’s OK not to be OK.
You are not weird. You are not alone. In fact, you’re perfectly normal.

Bryony Gordon is just fantastic and does wonders with her writing. Mad Girl is shocking, funny, heart-wrenching. And then again, that’s what it’s supposed to be: a celebration of life with mental illness, a positive attitude against adversity and the revealing truth about the importance of loving oneself.*

This book is just extraordinary.
Thank you, Bryony.

* A very well-known fact that no one puts into practice or cares about.

Book review: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth

Shadows of the Workhouse
By Jennifer Worth

9780753825853

Publication: 22/01/2009- London, United Kingdom
Paperback
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
★★★★★

Shadows of the Workhouse is the second title in the Call The Midwife Trilogy written by Jennifer Worth. In this follow up to Call the Midwife – which first published in June – Jennifer Worth, a midwife working in the East End of London in the 1950s, tells more stories about the people she encountered.

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After my experience reading Jennifer Worth’s first book, I was very much looking forward to this one and I must say that it didn’t disappoint me. Not a tiny bit! The paperback is available to buy from Amazon and bookshops but I bought myself the Kindle edition.

This sequel continues the story that was first started in Call The Midwife, and revolves around Jennifer’s memories of Nonnatus House, the nuns that lived and worked there, the people she met and treated, and life in the docklands in the 1950s.

The complete title of the book is Shadows of the Workhouse: The Drama of Life in Postwar London and I was eager to start reading it because I thought I’d find the same kind of stories I did in Call The Midwife. I didn’t. Shadows of the Workhouse is, in fact, a much darker book and much sadder as well. Jennifer’s writing remains the same – light and beautiful – but the stories she remembers throughout the pages are blue and truly heartbreaking.

In the book you’ll find Jane, who cleaned and helped out at Nonnatus House and was taken to the workhouse as a baby. Then there’s also Peggy and Frank’s story; their parents both died and they were left destitute. At the time, there was no other option for them but the workhouse. You’ll also meet Reverend Thornton-Appleby-Thorton, a missionary in Africa who visits the Nonnatus nuns. And then there’s Sister Monica Joan and her shoplifting habits… which, in the end, will take her to court.

Shadows of the Workhouse is definitely harder to read than its predecessor -the stories it explores are very tragic – but it also reveals the reality of workhouses and life as it truly was in postwar London.
Jennifer Worth’s memories  help the reader to learn a bit more about the history of England and how society was organised. If you like history, you’d love to read about these and you’ll learn while you read – which sounds very boring but it really isn’t?

The BBC TV series brought this title to the screen by mixing its stories with more pleasant ones – and not everything was presented as remembered by the author- so I’d definitely recommend giving these books a go, instead of just relying on the TV portrayal of her memories. Her stories give a fascinating insight into the resilience and spirit that enabled ordinary people to overcome their difficulties. It’s a powerful book,  based on powerful memories and written by a powerful author. It’s sad I only have one title left to read in the series…

 

Book Review: Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

In my last blog post, I made clear that I wanted my new site to be truthful, to reflect what goes through my mind on a day to day basis and I’ve been thinking there’s no better way to do it than by sharing my opinion and thoughts on the books I get to read. You see, working for the publishing industry has its perks…

Call The Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s
by Jennifer Worth

9780753823835

Publication date: 06/03/2008 – London, United Kingdom
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Imprint: Phoenix
★★★★★

The first time someone spoke to me about Call The Midwife, they were talking about the famous BBC series starring – among others – Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Helen George, Bryony Hannah and Laura Main and which focuses on a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It never occurred to me there could be a book behind the episodes and that I was actually watching the memories of a real midwife – Jennifer Worth – who did really work in the East End of London in the 1950s and 1960s. I should’ve known, honestly. It’s funny how many movies and series do come from books lately, right?

The series was charming and truly moving so it didn’t took me very long to know I desperately wanted to read the book.

Call the Midwife is the first book in a series, followed by Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End. They were all written by Jennifer Worth, who came from a sheltered background when she started working as a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s.
London’s East End was then characterised by tight-knit family communities, strange characters and a lively social scene. It was into this world that the author entered, a world where the conditions in which many women gave birth were horrifying. Not only because of their impoverished surroundings and lack of medical assistance, but also because of what they were expected to endure. In her series of books, Worth recounts her time working as a midwife, witnessing brutality and tragedy but also encountering kindness and understanding. Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, the author tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns and the nurses and midwifes with whom she trained.

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After watching the series, I didn’t know what to expect from Jennifer Worth’s first book but I was very much looking forward to reading it. And now that I’ve finished, I cannot wait to read the other two.
Jennifer Worth’s memories are so vivid and real that they take you back in time to the 1950s to one of the poorest areas in London. It is true that I’ve always liked reading memoirs and biographies but Worth’s words are somehow special. What I really like about the book is that the author doesn’t disguise reality and explains in detail how things were, even if they were horrid, obscene or repulsive. Her descriptions bring to life a long gone era, where family values where different, were people faced poverty, disease and painful situations and were women were the heroines of it all.

Some of the author’s memories were brought to the screen but some of them didn’t and that was interesting to discover. Her stories are beautifully told and some of them developed in a complete different way that what the BBC portrayed. Films / TV and books are not the same – nor they have to be – so it seems obvious that there was going to be differences between the way Worth’s stories are represented.

As I was devouring the pages, I felt nostalgic and I wished I could have seen it all. I wished I could speak Cockney and get to know the nuns who lived in Nonnatus House – a pseudonym, of course. I liked the way the author helped people and the way she admits she was not a saint – she describes her feelings of disgust, anger and revulsion towards some people she met, the mistakes she made along the way as well as the East Ender’s amazing tenacity, their traditions and their warmth and humour in the face of hardship.

The book is easy to enjoy and the descriptions didn’t seem long or boring – even though sometimes that’s the case of non-fiction titles. I actually found myself wanting to know what was going to happen to the characters – the nuns, the midwifes, the prostitutes, the expectant mothers – and discovering a beautiful side of Jennifer, one that is not understood in the TV series. Indeed, I really liked the way she speaks about the nuns, the way she first thought their religion is a joke and the way she realises – little by little – the important labour that these women were doing, helping people because they believed in something greater and felt love and peace within themselves.

Having said this, I truly recommend giving this little book a go, it kept me wanting to read even during rush hour and I already miss the characters and people I discovered between the pages. Thankfully, there’s still two more titles in the series.