EDIT 4th June: Thanks to random.org I’ve generated two winners. Congrats to Pip and Kate (thelittleredhen) whose “numbers” came up! Thanks to all who entered, I’ve got so many new authors to check out now. I’ll be having book giveways from time-to-time so please do stop by again.
I’m not usually mad about reading non-fiction books. I used to read a lot of short essays when I was at Uni – think Virginia Woolfe, Simone de Beauvoir and John Paul Sartre and you get my drift but it’s fair to say that in the last ten years I’ve drifted away from non-fiction. I think my share of non-fiction reading comes through the copious amounts of reports and proposals I’ve written and read in my career and reading for me has been about escape.
In the last little while though, I’ve found myself drifting back to non-fiction and particularly towards the type of non-fiction which gets me thinking.
“Just between Us” – set for release in June – was sent to me by the publishers, Pan MacMillan and as it’s ticked all my boxes – short essays and stories by women on an area of real interest to me – female friendships.
That it’s full to the brim with mini-post-it-notes marking out phrases that resonated with me is testimony to how much I enjoyed reading this.
There are some well known Australian women writers – Nikki Gemmell, Clementine Ford (who I have a major girl crush on!), Melina Marchetta, Jan Caro and Cate Kennedy to name but a few.
Each story or non-fiction examines an aspect of female friendships in a different way from each other. Some of them made me smile, others weep and others again made me wince.
In her introduction, Helen Garner says,
This collection of writing about the trevails of female friendship is a feast of things that women do not consider trivial. Again and again in these stories, whether memoir or fiction, we come across a woman’s sense that female intimacy is sacred.
And I believe it is sacred. The women who mean the most to me are dear to my heart and I hold their shared feelings and thoughts very close to me. It’s intimacy I’d never betray.
Julienne van Loon says,
The French term mon semblable (my friend) implies that my friend is in some way similar (semblable) to me. So, at the root of friendship is sameness, a recognition of likeness.
I think that’s true. I’m attracted to people who hold similar values to me, are interested in similar things and see the world sufficiently like me but sufficiently different that we have things to discuss too.
Like most people, I’ve had all manner of friendships and some previously very close friends are no longer so. There are always reasons for this on both sides of the equation. Each chapter investigates in it’s way, the ending of a friendship and though it feels voyeuristic in a way to be reading of the death of closeness it’s also wonderful to know that this has happened to others too. The ending of friendship is not something often discussed.
In her nonfiction piece Julienne van Loon says,
It is curious that friendship is most often written about after it has gone, as if death legitimises the discussion of what was previously too private or fragile a territory.
I particularly enjoyed Nikki Gemmel’s chapter in which she investigates online bullying, mother’s groups and the difficulty her five year old daughter is having with an alpha female in her pre-school. I found it fascinating to hear the teacher’s view on how young girls behave towards one another. Nikki speaks of a book, The Female Brain in which the author explains that,
it’s programmed into us (women) to connect intensely with each other in the childbearing years because we need the support and protection of other women around us during such a momentous time, when the males of the species are often away (hunting in the old days, working in the modern age). The flipside of this urgent biological need for bonding is the way women want to, need to, control one another – if everyone acts and thinks the same way the group will stay intact and everyone will be protected. If we can’t control someone – if an individual acts differently, in a way not expected – the other women turn on her….An attempt is made to….make her change and conform.
WOW huh? I even highlighted that passage and I never deface my books.
There is so much food for thought in this book that I’ll come back to it in the future too.
As I’m sure you can tell, I really enjoyed this book.
Thanks to the publishers, Pan MacMillan I have two copies of this book to giveway! YAY! All you need do is comment and let me know who your favourite female author is. Easy peasy.
The boring bits:
– open from today – 31st May through to Tuesday 5th June
– only open to Australian residents
– the publishers will send this directly to the winners so your name and address will be passed on to them