Britain has been defined by its conflicts, its conquests, its men and its monarchs. To say that it's high time it was defined by its women is a severe understatement. Jenni Murray draws together the lives of 21 women to shed light upon a variety of social, political, religious and cultural aspects of British history.
In lively prose Murray reinvigorates the stories behind the names we all know and reveals the fascinating tales behind those less familiar. From famous queens to forgotten visionaries and from great artists to our most influential political actors, A History of Britain in 21 Women is a veritable feast of history.
A History of Britain in 21 Women profiles Boadicea, Queen Elizabeth I, Aphra Behn, Caroline Herschel, Fanny Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Mary Somerville, Mary Seacole, Ada Lovelace, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst, Ethel Smyth, Constance Markievicz, Gwen John, Nancy Astor, Barbara Castle, Margaret Thatcher, Mary Quant and Nicola Sturgeon.
©2016 Jenni Murray (P)2016 Audible, Ltd
"I can't think of any more seductive way of learning about the past than meeting its principals as if they were friends in a room. That's the gift that Jenni Murray gives us." (Gloria Steinem)
"Murray chooses 21 women who changed the world, and tells their remarkable stories with her own extraordinary wit, passion and piercing insight. She is the perfect guide." (Helen Castor)
Fascinating insights. This audible book was right down my alley as I enjoy hearing the biographies of famous people. For me this is a infinitely more interesting listening than Matthew Paris's Great Lives on Radio 4. I have now just purchased from Amazon Kindle the Complete Novels of Fanny Burney after listening about her and how Jane Austen used to be a fan of hers.
Engaging, necessary, partial
In general I prefer it when audiobooks are narrated by their authors, and Jenni Murray is such a well-known voice that it would have seemed odd to have listened to her words read by someone else, but I became increasingly irritated with her delivery as the book went on. She has a trick of pausing at odd places in a sentence, presumably acquired to sound more natural when reading aloud, which made for an odd sensation as a listener and which in several places even confused the meaning of a sentence.
The thing I really disliked about the narration was the way she suddenly started Doing Accents in the chapter about Nancy Astor, a trend which continued in the chapters on Barbara Castle and Nicola Sturgeon. It's not that the accents were poorly delivered, although they were a little shaky in places, it's that they were arbitrary and generic, not actually sounding like the people they represent. Mary Seacole didn't get a Jamaican accent, so why should other non-RP women be represented with generic regional accents? I was very interested in all three of these women, so I wanted to hear their stories, but because of the accents I found myself longing for their chapters to end. For this reason, if this sort of thing annoys you, I recommend buying the Kindle book with Whispersync so you can read those chapters the old-fashioned way instead of listening to the impersonations.
Yes. I was keen to hear about all the women, whose stories are told in a lively and engaging way, and each chapter is a good length to provide an introduction to the subject before moving on to the next.
This book is part of the current redressing of the gender balance in discussing important historical figures, and deals with subjects in a variety of fields. Jenni Murray presents the information in an interesting, insightful and engaging way. She has clearly done a lot of research into her subjects and has personally chosen them to represent the contribution of extraordinary women to the construction of the Britain we know today. She relates both key events and 'human interest' anecdotes in a way that makes the subjects come to life, and where her subjects overlap she mentions this, which increases the anticipation for more information about the friend or colleague of the women in the current chapter.
She has certain biases which are especially clear in the later chapters, leading to the Afterword in which she caricatures all female non-voters as if they 'can't be bothered to use the right women suffered for' (as if anyone should just vote for a candidate - any candidate - even if they don't support that person's policies) and deals with things like the gender pay gap in a very simplistic way. In my view she doesn't treat Margaret Thatcher as impartially as she does the women who lived longer ago, and doesn't talk about the effects of Thatcher's long final illness in the way she treats the subjects of other chapters.
Those criticisms aside, I am very glad I bought this book. I'll definitely 'read' it again, though possibly not from beginning to end, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in hearing about people they probably haven't thought about much, or maybe even heard of.
A great selection from a personal perspective. A great introduction to British feminist thought. Really well and passionately read by the author.
I enjoyed everything about this book. I felt moved by it, as much as I have by the best works of fiction as well as better informed about my country's history. I am left with a better understanding of feminism, the journey and the sacrifice of women, and the resounding importance of continuing to demand equality, in the UK and globally. Thanks to Jenni Murray for writing and reading this book, the narration of which was so easy to listen to and absorb.
An amazing choice of women who made Britain. Makes me proud to be a woman. Inspires me to be strong, determined and never to accept misogyny and inequality. I particularly liked the second to last chapter.
Thank you Jenny Murray-,We love you xx
Excellent summary of the life and work of 21 women who shaped Britain and beyond. Ends with a timely reminder that, although so much has been achieved in terms of gender equality, there is still work to be done, and we all have a role in building on the progress made.
I enjoyed this book. I gave performance 5 stars because I do enjoy when authors read their own works and I liked Jenni's reading style and intonation.
I had to admit I wasn't always 100% engaged, some parts grabbed my attention more than others, which is why I gave four stars overall. But I would definitely recommend it.
So interesting to hear about the many courageous and determined women who have helped to shape our lives today. A shame that it had to be limited to just 21 as there are so many more women who have forged a path for us all. Nevertheless, an uplifting sometimes shocking listen. (The account of a barbaric breast operation will stay with me for a long time.) I will definitely research more about the women I knew little about before, especially Fanny Burnley and Aphra Benn. Very accessible and will listen to again and share with my daughters to educate them about these phenomenal trail blazers.
I really enjoyed this book. Jenni's voice is soothing and maintains the listener's interest.
I'm not sure I would have picked the same 21 women but that's what made it so interesting, learning about several determined women I've never previously been introduced to .
Being introduced to several of these women has definitely sparked my interest to find out more.
I highly recommend this audiobook especially if you listen in bite size chunks. Each chapter focuses on a single individual and last approx 15-20mins.
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