Scharrer offers a riveting fictionalized biography of her great-aunt Flora Shaw, one of the first successful female journalists.
In the late 19th century, men dominated the world of journalism, and it was almost unheard-of for a woman to report from the field. Pioneering reporter Shaw, however, turned this world on its head by using her intelligence, wit, charm and bravery. Debut author Scharrer creatively reimagines Shaw’s trailblazing life by piecing together her biography and embellishing it with scintillating conversation and rich, vivid description. Shaw first made her mark as an author of children’s books, and this work carefully spells out her influences prior to her break into journalism. Early on, for example, she meets writer and social theorist John Ruskin, one of many thinkers who shaped her ideas on life. Yet, as she establishes herself, her own distinct philosophies become quite clear. This book isn’t just about a writer coming of age, but also about her many breathtaking achievements. At first, the budding journalist was forced to write under the name of “F. Shaw,” as revealing her gender would have damaged her credibility with many London Times readers. She eventually used her full name in her byline, however, and she rose to become the newspaper’s “Colonial Editor” and one of the greatest (and highest-paid) female journalists of her time. Scharrer also observes that Shaw was involved directly in the Jameson Raid, a botched assault on the South African Republic of Transvaal led by the British statesman Leander Starr Jameson. The author expertly sets this scene: “Jameson sighed as he nervously slapped at the flies buzzing around him in his tent.” Readers will feel as though they’re getting a privileged, candid view of Jameson, and they’ll sense the tension and the heat of the landscape, as if they’ve been transported directly there. Scharrer’s prose is always sharp, elegant and controlled, much like the era it portrays. From the outset, it’s clear that this work is a carefully researched labor of love, and it dutifully fulfills the vital task of remembering a pioneer in women’s letters.
An essential adventure in British journalism.