A book for girls, for adventurers, for writers...
Profiles of eleven women who were compelled to write under extraordinary - or very ordinary - circumstances.
From the Toronto Star:
Biography, sampler, history, a study of writing, of character: Scribbling Women: True Tales from Astonishing Lives by Stratford’s Marthe Jocelyn is all of these.
Meet Sei Shonagon, the witty courtier from 10th century Japan, whose lists are like poetry. (“Scruffy things: The back of a piece of embroidery. The inside of a cat’s ear.”)
Meet Ada Blackjack, whose brief, phonetically spelled journal entries chronicle her hard-won, daily survival on a remote Arctic island: (“July 1st . . . I saw Polar bear out on the ice and this evening I went to the end of the sand spit shot a eider duck I shot him right in the head thank God keep me a live till now.”)
Meet Mary Kingsley, who, in the 1890s, set out from the U.K. to study fish and fetishes in West Africa — despite the dire implications of contemporary travel guides. Of Phrases in Common Use in Dahomey, West Africa, Kingsley writes, “the opening sentence was, ‘Help, I am drowning’ . . . and then another cry, ‘The boat is upset.’ ‘Get up, you lazy scamps,’ is the next exclamation, followed almost immediately by the question, ‘Why has this man not been buried?’ ” Unabashed by the prospects suggested by these “phrases in common use,” Kingsley went on her travels and left us a voluminous, informative, lively diary.
Kingsley’s humour and adventuresome spirit are abundantly apparent in her lighthearted take on her phrase book — and so it is throughout Jocelyn’s collection, in which every aptly chosen quotation evokes something piquant and memorable about its writer and her life.
Jocelyn features 11 women writers in her portraits. Some are highly educated and precocious; some are barely literate and writing under the most arduous or tragic circumstances. Some wrote journals; some, like Margaret Catchpole, a convicted horse thief eking her way as a convict in Australia, wrote letters. Daisy Ashford wrote a complete novel at 9 — and it’s still in print. Isabella Beeton wrote a manual of household management that influenced domestic life for generations.
For each woman, Jocelyn has written a short biography, supported and illustrated with a generous number of quotations from the woman’s writing. Thus each speaks for herself, with Jocelyn interpreting and elucidating what’s happening between the lines for her young readers.
Scribbling Women is a powerfully respectful, artful and even joyous celebration of a group of diverse women and what they left us in their writing. It’s also a rare and subtle demonstration of how to read — for enjoyment, of course, but also for the tidbits of information that even the most casual and rustic records can give us. Highly recommended.
Deirdre Baker (Toronto Star)
Jocelyn’s book also highlights... just how extraordinary these women’s ideas, actions, and accomplishments were. These writers, often living in very difficult times, chose to participate and document their experiences fully, leaving behind important (and often rare) glimpses of the times they lived in. Scribbling Women may inspire more young women to bear witness.
(Quill & Quire)
Do you have to ask why I think this is the best sort of book for any girl who wants to be a writer, or any grown up female author who wants to know the great company she is now part of?
(Bookslut in Training)