29 Comments
Sep 5, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

The Growlery! Jarndyce's is bookish too.

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founding

Bad reviews are unpopular, but essential. Thanks for this section.

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Sep 5, 2023·edited Sep 5, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

Thank you for this. Wifedom is sitting on my 'to-read' pile so I find your comments really interesting. I was persuaded by a very positive review by Caroline Criado Perez, but now I'm intrigued to see how I feel about it. This business of inserting yourself in to books about other people is becoming more popular I think, and more frustrating. I'm a keen gardener and was persuaded by reviews to buy a book called 'Why Women Grow' by Alice Vincent. I was expecting it to be about women gardeners/growers, a combination of history, biography, achievement, a celebration of women who grow. It wasn't. it was mostly about the author's relationship, her shall I, shan't I have a baby self-talk, and a few discussions with a small number of self-selected women who did a bit of gardening. I felt similarly to you in describing Wifedom. A waste of time and money, reading about someone's thirty-something angst.

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Very interesting, Henry. Growlery sounds like an excellent addition, hope you don't have to use it too much. I had been wondering about this book, and I didn't realise how much of it might be speculation. The perils of too few footnotes.

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Feb 4Liked by Henry Oliver

Thanks so much for your review Henry. We discussed this book last week in my bookclub in Australia. It is a bestseller here. I agree about Funder's fictional inclusions and oversharing of her personal privileged life. She cites no primary sources in Wifedom, Eileen's letters she read in Topp's book.

As a biographer who works hard to reference everything I say, so people can follow up and make their own judgement, I find her writing frustrating. Unfortunately, many people just want a 'good read' not a carefully researched biography.

I am coming to UK and France this Spring to research for my next book about artist Iso Rae. You or your readers can find my previous biographies at:

https://scholarly.info/article/book_author/jo-oliver/

I read that you have, or are still, conducting tours in London but can't find details online. Could you post where to find them if you are continuing or suggest any good ones, literary, historical, not just the main sights? thanks, Jo

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Excellent growling. Thank you.

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I hadn’t heard of this book till you wrote about it, but there’s a review by Sarah Bakewell in today’s NYTBR that gives it more credit as a critique of Orwell’s male biographers for ignoring or downplaying the women in Orwell’s life - a criticism that, as a (feminist) biographer, I find is often sadly justified. Curious what you made of that aspect of the book. I’m interested in how the insertion of self in biography can be done well - my feeling is Jenn Shapland sometimes oversteps a bit, but it’s hard not to. I’m attempting something of this in my new book about Anne Frank.

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I have bought a copy of Wifedom. I was encouraged (but not necessarily persuaded) by the fact that it was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week recently. But the principal reason was that I have an unread copy of Topp's biography here, and I thought it might be fun to read Funder's book in tandem. (Doesn't Funder makes claim to inclusion of some newly-available letters?) You've certainly whetted my appetite for what I might find, now!

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“The Growlery”. Great title. You mention the book, “Eileen, The Making of George Orwell” by Sylvia Topp. Do you recommend it?

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I love the idea of the Growlery! Can we all contribute!

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Sep 5, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

Henry, sad to say the link to the book club posts section doesn’t work, at least not on the iOS Substack app. It just gets you to a Subscribe screen. Would indeed be useful as at least on my app, the posts aren’t ordered chronologically so you have to look all over the place. The Growlery link works.

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