Book Review

I love the library. I love libraries the way some people get excited about Disneyland- so much good stuff to see and do and read- gets me giddy. Libraries are also wonderful places to take your kids, especially in the summer, when the air-conditioning and the stories are both free. Two weeks ago during story time, I was able to creep towards the "New Books" shelf (oh glory!) and nab a couple that looked interesting, but not to taxing on my sleep-deprived brain. Since these books have to go back to the library today, I guess I best get around to writing the review! "To Hell with All That...Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife" by Caitlin Flanagan. Well, the title alone was enough to compel me to pick this one up. As a dyed-in-the-wood housework hater, I wanted to see what this little tome was about. The jacket says it is sociological criticism with champagne bubbles- witty, poignant, sparkling and fiercely entertaining. Well, yes.. Yes, it was an entertaining and fairly easy read, and the first few chapters she had me chuckling here and there. But as I read on, I became confused about Ms. Flanagan's viewpoint. In the beginning of the book, she writes a beautiful tribute to her mother, the quintessential mid-century housewife, and laments how that is what is missing from our modern families: a mother, at home, running the show. Comparing the rituals and niceties of traditional womanhood with those of today's empowered, career generation, she attempts to show how our "inner-housewife" still has a powerful pull on our psyches, and how, because we cannot have it all, career and awesome mommy, we manifest our desires in exaggerated, domestic femininity, a la Martha Stewart. Interesting idea, and not out of the realm of possibility. But where she looses me, is with her own life examples. This is a woman who has two children, and opted to stay at home, but did so with a full-time nanny. She freely admits that she does neither laundry nor cooking for her family, and that she does not even change bed-sheets when her children are ill- she leaves that for the Help, calling "Paloma, Patrick is throwing up!" She does note that she is able to have the life she chooses because of a) upper middle-class income, and b) because "brown women" are willing to do the things she does not wish to do. Hmmm... Ms. Flanagan examines the private concerns of women's lives, her own as her example, including weddings, sex, nannies, mothering, housekeeping and marriage. She makes as point or two that is interesting, but her self-indulgence became wearisome. It's a book of contradictions, a book that ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied and a little tired and confused. But maybe that is because I am more like her own mother than I am like her: I am home, running the show, tending my family, and carving out my own satisfaction, writing between loads of laundry.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The minute I read the "Brown woman" comment I would've thrown the book across the room as trash! I'll definatlely remember to NOT pick that one up

8/10/2006 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Chrissie said...

Yep, the "brown woman" quote would have been the end for me too, I'm afraid. I don't do self-help books anyway...I've never found one I liked. Not one.


7 Habits of Highly Effective TEENS (written by Covey's son...because Covey's son is a fabulous, witty and eloquent writer...and perhaps because I like to think I'm still 16??? LOL)

8/10/2006 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Yeah, it was harsh; however in the interests of fairness, she was also pointing out that this in inherently unfair, and how the system fails poor women, vis a vis, social security, bennefits etc... Like I said, it was full of contradictions.

8/10/2006 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, I've not read it, but it sounds like someone who is trying to justify their privileged role in society even though they know it's inherently unfair.
I've seen enough of it to have developed a "nose"for it. A lot like, "I think the environment should be priority one, but I can't give up my SUV/big energy sucking home/etc because I NEED those things"

8/11/2006 02:34:00 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

i remember seeing her on the Today show a while back touting this book and after hearing her talk for a bit i could tell she was full of crap.

8/11/2006 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Allison, I wish I had seen that interview, I could have spared myself the read!

8/11/2006 02:44:00 PM  

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