Books by Colette Dowling

Released: Sept. 9, 2000

"The assumption of men's ill-will and bad behavior toward women will doubtless rankle many male readers, but women's study groups should find this convincing and comforting—if not downright inspiring."
A feisty challenge to the notion that females are the weaker sex. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1998

The Cinderella Complex revisited, this time with dollar signs added. In The Cinderella Complex (1981) Dowling hypothesized that even the most liberated woman had a secret hope that The Prince, glass slipper in hand, was en route to rescue her from independence and responsibility. The book was an international bestseller, earning Dowling millions. Ten years later she was broke, owing the IRS more than $70,000. She sold the two houses she owned, moved into a small rental, and paid the federal government $760 a month to retire her debt. At one point, Dowling moans, she had grossed $400,000 a year and ran American Express bills up to $3,000 a month; now she was reduced to shopping at discount stores and coloring her own hair. Sympathy from economically hard-pressed readers is likely to take a deep dive at this point. To her credit, Dowling takes responsibility for her irresponsibility about money and seizes the opportunity to explore why she and other women like her don—t, or can—t, plan ahead. The same yearning to have someone else take care of them, a reluctance to take risks, and an inclination to provide for others lead women toward financial insolvency, as does a pervasive "bag lady" fantasy—that they will end up on the streets, penniless, in their old age. While noting recent research on preadolescent girls' socially conditioned retreat from competence, Dowling nevertheless rather unconvincingly sets up men as models of financial prudence. Her efforts to present female role models are undermined by her examples, among them the Beardstown Ladies, recently exposed as less than they seemed to be. There is no question that managing money is a cause of great anxiety—but as many men as women have ridden the roller coaster of high times, only to crash and burn. Copying male habits may not be the answer. Engagingly written, but essentially a reworking of the territory of the author's earlier books, without many surprises. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1996

The best so far of the recent spate of ``this is what 50 is like'' books from women leading the Baby Boomers into middle age. Although Dowling (You Mean I Don't Have to Feel This Way, 1991; The Cinderella Complex, not reviewed; etc.) suffers from her generation's smug conviction that life before the Boomers was politically and culturally static, she doesn't let self- satisfaction stand in the way of assessing a woman's life after 50 with penetrating honesty. In fact, as she points out, the Boomers are the first generation to peer over their reading glasses into the future and know they will likely live into their 80s and perhaps beyond. Dowling looks at the problems this will create for women and comes up with a scenario that is optimistic without deteriorating into vacuous cheerleading. The book is organized around eight ``choice points,'' issues that women face as they round the half-century mark, including social barriers, aging parents, the beauty myth, work, love, sex, money, and hormone replacement therapy. Anecdotal evidence is backed with solid research bolstering Dowling's various arguments. For instance, so convinced is she of the value of hormone therapy— she views opposition as either political or medically misguided- -that ``Estrogen Wars'' is the longest chapter in the book. Dowling contends effectively that it is an indispensable tool in dealing with the physical, mental, and emotional changes that many, if not most, postmenopausal women suffer. Nor does she gloss over the problems that aging women face in finding sex partners, negotiating promotions, and putting a secure financial future in place. One stumbling point: the ``fictionalized'' group of Mamas, a device used to introduce various midlife issues. Vivid, lively, and informative, with a secure grip on reality combined with a conviction that, at 50 and beyond, not only is the glass half full, it's ready for a refill. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1992

Again, Dowling (Perfect Woman, 1988, etc.) uses personal experience—her daughter's depression—as the springboard for her writing, this time arguing for the primary role of brain biochemistry in a large number of illnesses frequently considered biological in origin. Dowling believes, along with Hudson and Pope (Harvard psychiatrists who identified affective spectrum disorder) that the level of serotonin, a brain hormone, has as much to do with mental status as do environmental influences, and she urges medication for depressed patients to restore and regulate equilibrium. Having seen her daughter successfully treated with an antidepressant, she eagerly encourages others to seek similar relief for mood disorders, and goes on to examine the broad range of diagnoses- -bulimia, PMS, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictions, kleptomania—that respond to these medications. Psychiatrists, she finds, often take incomplete family histories, miss cases of depression, undermedicate, or fail to recognize and treat dual illnesses (e.g., depression and addiction). Also, most people see mood as a matter of personal control and resist professional intervention. Dowling realizes that many will resist this point of view (``Life is flattened, we feel, by a one-dimensional, chemical approach to the brain''), and she tries to persuade with anecdotal case histories, always recommending psychotherapy as part of the process, not merely to monitor dosages and possible side effects but also, as one psychiatrist sees it, to learn ``to unravel what is normal personality from what the illness has superimposed upon it.'' No researcher, Dowling admits, has established a cause-and- effect relationship between serotonin and these mood disorders, just an association, so she does not insist that her argument is more than plausible. She does insist, though, some antidepressant will always relieve these conditions, a certainty many psychiatrists will dispute. As in Dowling's previous books, readers will recognize themselves, welcome the accessible vocabulary, and appreciate the balanced presentation of related issues (will people use PMS as evidence of inferiority or reason for discrimination?). Expect the warmest response from a nonprofessional audience. Read full book review >