Review: ‘Women of a Certain Age’, reviewed by Shelley Timms

Women of a Certain Age is a collection of 15 vastly different, but all beautifully written stories about what it’s like to be “woman on the other side of 40, 50, 60 and 70.”

Masterfully collated by editors Jodie Moffat, Maria Scoda and Susan Laura Sullivan, the book features stories from both the past and present, and each story brings a different perspective on life as a woman. Growing pains, menopause, sexual harassment and race are some of the many themes presented, and overall it was a joy to read. 

It is always hard to review personal stories such as these, as the authors always pour their heart and soul into these nonfiction narratives, cutting out a chunk of their human experience and laying it bare on the pages for the reader, and criticism can be hard to deliver at times. That being said, this book is so wonderfully edited and brought together that my only criticism is that it should be longer! 

The collection got off to a strong start, with Charlotte Roseby’s ‘Still Here Still’, a heartbreaking glimpse into the fragility of life when it comes to chronic illness. Raw and honest, this piece was a triumphant start to Women of a Certain Age

As someone who is younger than the target audience, I did have trouble connecting with some of the stories in the collection, however they were all written well and showcased each author’s writing style and strengths. A few stories in particular resonated with me, such as Anne Aly’s ‘Ignorance’, Jeanine Leane’s ‘Black Boxes’, and ‘Still Here Still Giving’ by Charlotte Roseby. 

Aly’s story of growing up as a child of immigrants and being close friends with her neighbour featured a final twist that is unfortunately relevant today. Aly’s writing style is to the point and full of zest, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading her piece. It is an excerpt from her upcoming book, which I am now highly anticipating after this! It was interesting to read about diversity from the personal perspective rather than in its usual context of politics. Particularly eye-opening were Aly’s experiences around other’s perceptions of her as “exotic”

My favourite piece from the collection would have to be ‘Black Boxes’ by Jeanine Leane, which immediately stood out to me and taught me a lot. As a reader who has not been exposed to many of the themes depicted in ‘Black Boxes’, the story stuck with me the most after reading it. As Leane says in the first paragraph, “Whitefellas never can decide what kind of Blackfella they want. The bar is always shifting. But whatever kind of Blackfella they want – it’s never me.” It’s punchy, attention-grabbing and as a white Australian, a perspective that I want to learn more about. This is the kind of diversity we need in literature, particularly Australian literature.

Overall, the collection was well thought out and collated to create diversity amongst all of the authors. I enjoyed that each author had a unique voice and perspective on being a woman, and I commend each author on their courage and honesty in sharing their personal stories. I think this book would benefit from being turned into an audiobook, as hearing the stories being told by each author would create an even deeper personal connection to each piece. 

Women of a Certain Age is due for release from Fremantle Press in March 2018.

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