If only the writing lived up to the subject matter….
Twenty-four vignettes of intrepid true-life women—exploring, adventuring and risking their lives to live fully—are recounted in passive, confusing narratives. Disjointed thoughts plague many of the accounts: “At one point Sophia thought that she couldn’t walk another step, but she only grew stronger.” Troublesome undercurrents riffle others: “…and Eleanor’s intelligence, courage, and grace set an example of what a woman could accomplish at sea.” (Switch the gender and see how patronizing it sounds.) For a book about women, the influence of men infiltrates irritatingly. Most role models depicted, whether in the forms of parents, spouses or professors, are men. Professors, especially, proliferate since doctorates are earned by many of the women. And often earned, it seems, without much juggling of responsibilities or financial hardship. While many of the women profiled knew struggle in both childhood and adulthood, the flat tone of the writing keeps readers from engaging emotionally. All these women could be—are—wonderful role models, and their stories could inspire, if only they were told with more passion. The most inspiration is found in the resources, notes and bibliography sections of the backmatter.
The book’s overall tone—that of a laundry list of accomplishments—does a disservice to readers who deserve to relate to and be inspired by these remarkable women. (Collective biography. 10-17)