Sunday, June 10, 2018

In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons From 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules by Karen Karbo (2018)

Thank God(dess) for difficult women.  Karbo’s book is a witty look at 29 women who, as the subtitle suggests, “dared to break the rules.”  There are plenty of Karbo’s humorous asides, which took what could have been a reference book and turned into a spicy, entertaining book of essays.  I thought the book was varied - women of various ages, races, sexualities, in various professions, modern women and women from the recent past.  Some of these women are not typical girl power heroines either; difficult women aren’t always heroic all the time.  Janis Joplin is an example - a fabulously talented singer but also a drug addict who died tragically young from an overdose.  Or Eva Peron, a dictator’s wife.  That’s what made this book so interesting in the end - it could have been the cast of usual characters, but Karbo chose both a mix of thought-provoking and fantastic women.   The essays are pithy, but packed full of repeatable facts about women from Angela Merkel to Carrie Fisher.  I think Karbo’s book is trying very hard to be very cool - but I closed the book thinking that it (mostly - will Lena Dunham continue to be famous in 15 years?) succeeded in its coolness quest.

The essay on Kay  Thompson ended up being my favorite - I knew next to nothing about this women, who was difficult indeed.  A mostly forgottten figure, who was in the midst of the radio and Hollywood for much of the Golden Age of Entertainment of the last century.

In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the RulesIn Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules by Karen Karbo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank God(dess) for difficult women! Karbo writes about 29 wonderfully difficult and varied women in a witty, entertaining and (surprise!) educational book. What a could of turned into a dry reference book is spiced with Karbo’s occasionally snarky but always humorous aside, plus her choosing an incredibly interesting choice of women “who dared to break the rules” about whom to write. Karbo comes across as very hip and trying to be cooler than cool - and I closed the book thinking she mostly (will Lena Dunham REALLY be famous in fifteen years) succeeding. Favorite essays include ones about Kay Thompson (a forgotten figure now that once ruled radio and Hollywood), Angela Merkel (a worthy and admirable opponent for Trump in this new world order of the last year), and Frida Kahlo (she’s delightfully crazy)


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