My husband bought me a copy of Sara Pascoe’s Animal when I was crying.
It arrived by post a couple of days later as a surprise. I was nearing the end of some pretty invasive surgery following a fall, and felt my appearance particularly freakish that day. As I inconsolably howled about looking like a demented Bugs Bunny, he fiddled on his phone for something to cheer me up. And, as I sit here reflecting on what to write in this review, it strikes me how very apt it was that he bought this book.
Animal’s subtitle is ‘The Autobiography of a Female Body’, but in my head I’ve started adding the word ‘empowering’ to it – ‘An Empowering Autobiography of a Female Body’ – as that’s how I came out of it feeling. I like to think of myself as a strong woman, who is proud of being female and all that comes with it… but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some days it’s bloody hard to stay confident. Every day, the media and the dark lords of advertising smash us over the head with images, expectations and stereotypes that, well, make me a bit ranty. And that’s not a very pretty thing. So it was such a joy to curl up with Sara and hear her ranting all my rants, but doing so in a much more amusing, coherent and intelligent way.
Animal is divided up into four parts – Too Many Introductions, Love, Body, and Consent – and each section is written with a mix of honesty, humour and humility. I’ve not laughed so much reading a book since Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman and I didn’t think that was possible ever again. You’d be forgiven for thinking, however, that a book written by a stand-up comedian would just be gag after gag after gag, but Animal contains a lot of serious stuff too. Pascoe achieves a balance in her writing that feels very genuine, and I finished the book feeling like I’d somehow gained a loyal friend. (I suspect she’s already getting emails and tweets from women just like me, “Oh we’ve got so much in common! Let’s go for a drink.”) She stands up for women, celebrates women, and defends women, and that’s such a breath of fresh air in a world where we’re constantly knocked and derided for virtually everything we do. (Sadly, often by those of the same, as well as the opposite, sex.) The level of research that has gone into writing this book is also pretty astounding. Facts and figures, anecdotes, and passages from history are peppered throughout, making this not only an engaging read, but a really interesting one too. Plus, Sara’s footnotes are genius.
Animal is a book I want to share with my nieces and buy for all my friends (I’ve already bought a copy for my sister-in-law). I came out of it feeling empowered: proud of being a woman, more willing to fight for women, and very, very sure that there are still a lot of wrongs that need righting. But please don’t think for a minute that this book is for ‘girls only’, because there’s actually lots in it that will resonate with guys as well. If fact, I think all blokes should read it. You see, Pascoe hasn’t set out to write a book that knocks men, but she has decided to talk very honestly about what it’s like to be a woman. And that can only be a good thing… for us all.
Why not treat yourself to a copy today?