Review: Can Any Mother Help Me?, Jenna Bailey

In 1935, a mother wrote in to a British motherhood magazine saying this:

Can any mother help me?  I live a very lonely life as I have no near neighbors.  I cannot afford to buy a wireless. I adore reading, but with no library am very limited with books.  I dislike needlework, though I have a lot to do!  I get so down and depressed after the children are in bed and I am alone in the house….Can any reader suggest an occupation that will intrigue me and exclude ‘thinking’ and cost nothing?

In response, a group of women formed a privatecorrespondence magazine.  They submitted articles about their lives; the articles were bound into a magazine and sent around to each woman in turn.  They wrote comments on each other’s articles, offering advice and support.  The correspondence magazine lasted for over 50 years and was a lifeline to the women involved.  Can Any Mother Help Me? excerpts articles the women wrote about their children, the war, family sickness, marital problems, etc.

The book was fascinating – it reminded me so much of blogging!  The women who participated in the magazine would put in little notes on the articles, “love what you have written!”, etc.  Before each excerpt, Jenna Bailey included a biography of the woman who wrote it, to put the articles in the broader context of the author’s life.  Although there isn’t enough room in the book to give a lot of information about each woman, their descriptions of their lives are still vivid and individual.  I liked Yonire and Accidia the best as writers, but I enjoyed many of the stories.

If I were doing the Women Unbound Challenge – which I am not, I swear I can resist the temptation to enter these things because I have no idea whether I will be able to finish them – but if I were, I’d include this book as part of it, because, you know.  Hooray for women supporting each other!  (Thanks to Tara for the recommendation.)

This review seems a smidge perfunctory, but that is only because I am currently in the middle of The Mask of Apollo, a book by Mary Renault that I have been saving and saving for many years and finally decided to read and it is wonderful.  I wish I could travel back in time and give Mary Renault a hug.  Should be finished with it soon though my review may be delayed as my little sister just got back into town and we have A LOT of stuff to catch up on, like going to the mall and trying on prom dresses, and talking about who we would cast in the movie versions of every book we have read since we last saw each other, and eating Mexican food and going out for cheese fries, and watching Doctor Who and Angel and Better Off Ted – y’all, there are many things we are going to do.

In other happy news, my parents got a puppy.  She is the sweetest little puppy, though I am glad I am grown-up and not at home and thus no longer responsible for cleaning up after a brand new puppy, or for puppy-proofing all my things.  I named her Jasmine (Jazz for short!), and her proper name is Jasmine Mouton because she looks like a little sheep when she romps all over the house.  Of course, after we had already agreed on the name, I discovered she was born on Oscar Wilde’s birthday.  BORN ON OSCAR WILDE’S BIRTHDAY Y’ALL.  If I had known this, I would have pushed to name her Ada Leverson.  Ada Leverson Puppy.

See that koala bear in the corner?  Jasmine loves it.  We caught it at a St. Patrick’s Day parade a few years ago, I believe, and it is nearly as big as she is, but she still carries it all around and worries at it and tries to rip its ears off.  I think that means affection, from a puppy?  Anyway she is extremely sweet and seems very, very clever.  She is already starting to head for the back door when she needs to go out, though of course once she is out, all she wants to do is to chew on the air conditioning and run under the house.  We hope she grows too tall for under the house VERY SOON.