Sisterhood of the World Q & A

The immensely talented and lovely Elle tagged me for this meme, which I was very happy to answer, given that I love the sisterhood. We need to stick together, my female friends.



  1. What’s the best trait you’ve inherited from your parents?

I was going to say my work ethic, but thinking about it, my parents passed on their desire to be very supportive of family and friends and that’s probably worth more angel points.


  1. What fictional world would you live in if you could, and what character or position would you occupy within it.

I’d like to live in St Mary’s Mead, please, and be Miss Marple. I’m doing my best to train up for the role in later life, though at some point I’m going to have to tackle knitting. But I really want Dolly Bantry to be my best friend; she’s a hoot.


  1. In what situations, if at all, is it acceptable to talk through a movie?

I can think of plenty of movies I’ve been subjected to seeing by Mr Litlove that I easily could have talked through. Given a preference, I’d rather take a book along, if only someone would turn the lights up a bit.


  1. Do you think it is moral to have children?

I think it’s incredibly hard work to have children, and I think it’s a tougher job than one can ever imagine, childless, that parenting will be. I think it puts every part of your personality on trial, and will ultimately challenge many of the values you hold. You have to make a lot of sacrifices and do so willingly. So I don’t think I could ever say that people HAD to have them out of moral obligation. I think if you have them, you must do your very best by them, no matter what the circumstances. Once in situ, children force you to be moral, I think. (Though this does NOT mean that parents never behave badly, or that the childless are immoral. No. Only that children exert a certain pressure.)


  1. What is the unkindest thing you have ever done?

I wrote a post, The Lost Photo about this a while back. Read it and weep.


  1. What practical skill do you most wish you had?

I’d be happy to have any practical skills; I’m rather low on them. When I was younger, I would have liked to be able to draw. Now I’m older, I wish I were more green-fingered. I’d grow all my own vegetables if I had any talent for it.


  1. Tell us about an epiphany or “lightning bolt” moment in your life.

When I was about six months into my first ever job (marketing person for a book printers), the realisation was dawning that this was not for me. I did not like working for my bosses, I did not like keeping office hours, and I was frequently and deeply bored. And it occurred to me, that no one was forcing me to be here. It wasn’t like school or university where you have to hang on in there until the end. Now I was free to make different choices, change my mind, look for other jobs. Or indeed return to graduate studies. But what constituted the real lightning bolt was that work was a choice. So much of life you just have to put up with because you can’t do anything else. But work is not a prison; you can get up and leave. Sure you may have to take a pay cut, or move a rung down the ladder, or do some more training. I don’t think that’s a big deal, not when you consider that genuine freedom is at stake here.


  1. What is the first thing you do when you get home from work.

These days I work from home! When I was full time at college, it would be: feed the cat, feed the child, feed the husband. These days I only know I’m not working when I’m reading a book that doesn’t have to be read for review or research.


  1. How do you feel about writing in books.

I’m fine with it. I wrote in all my college books as that was how I kept track of my thoughts as I went along. I’d have been lost without those notes. Somehow, I can’t bring myself to write in books I’m reading for fun or reviewing for the blog. It doesn’t feel quite right, though I dog ear pages happily.


  1. Do you miss your hometown?

Colchester is a perfectly nice town, but I do prefer Cambridge.

Now at this point, I’m supposed to make up some questions and tag some bloggers. I’m going to do things a little differently by asking a few general questions about sisterhood that people can feel free to answer in the comments, or on their blog, or not at all. But they are questions whose responses I’m very interested in hearing.

1. What does the sisterhood mean to you, if anything?

2. Do you think women are still disadvantaged in the modern world? And if so, how?

3. Have you come across examples of ‘everyday sexism’ in your day to day life?

4. Which book would you most readily recommend as saying something important about women’s lives?

5. Supposing you and some female friends got together to create a publishing house that would be the new Virago. What sort of books would you publish?


26 thoughts on “Sisterhood of the World Q & A

  1. I am not sure if I should be commenting on this, let alone answering any of the questions, however …

    Q2: Ms Marple ??!!
    Q2 (of yours) – where do I start!!
    Q3: (of yours) Yes (and for both sexes)
    Q4: (of yours) In terms of saying something important to me when I was young it was The Second Sex (probably very old fashioned of me to recommend it now and I know it has come in for some well argued criticism in recent years)

  2. How fun–I am with you on that practical skill thing–anything house-wise DIY would be nice. It is a drag having a house and not being able to actually fix anything. I do not feel very self-sufficient in many aspects of my life. And I could be happy in St. Mary’s Mead–charming but never a dull moment! I want to know about that last question you ask–which books would you publish? I love the idea of a new (old) Virago!

    • I would just love to start a new Virago. I’d publish lots of cultural and political books by women, as well as all sorts of innovative fiction. Oh and plenty of life writing/memoirs. But someone else would have to do the practical side of it! 🙂

  3. Ahhhh, Miss Marple! She would be a great fictional alter ego. Old ladies who don’t put up with any nonsense–I’m waiting for the day. (Meanwhile, I’m working on being a young lady who doesn’t put up with any nonsense.)

    Your answer to the work question is really interesting because to me, work has never felt optional or freeing (though I do like working)–since my parents can’t support me and I live a long way away from them, I’ve felt ever since leaving uni that I need to take whatever offers itself just to be able to live. You’re probably right, though, in that if you have a little bit saved up, you can make informed choices about where and how you work. I think in a year or so, I’ll have gotten to that place, and it will be just as exciting to realize as it was for you.

    I’d totally love to answer your sisterhood questions, too…which might be cheating! But I’ll write a post on them anyway 😉

    • You just need a plan. When I realised I was not enjoying my job I applied for a lot of journalism courses at first. That didn’t take me anywhere but while doing it, I heard about the new MPhil in European literature that was being put together in Cambridge. I moved there and worked in Waterstones (fab job) while putting in my application. It took me eighteen months to get where I wanted, but once I knew the goal, I was perfectly happy on the various stepping stones. You’ve got an Oxford degree, right? Then no one in your position, with your qualifications and skills should EVER feel you have to take whatever job is coming. Think about what you really want to do – everything is better when you have a purpose. I’d love to read your answers to the questions – can’t wait!

  4. Ditto to your lightening bolt moment. Mine came when I heard a career counsellor say that work is not a master and slave relationship. Since then I’ve made a pledge that the day I wake up and don’t want to go to work, is the day I quit that job.

  5. I don’t have a choice about which fictional world I live in as I do actually live in Tolkien’s Shire. In fact I was eating bread made from flour milled in Ted Sandyman’s Mill just earlier today. Given that that is the case I definitely don’t want to be Bilbo or Frodo, or any of the other gallivanting hobbits, thank you very much. Tackling dragons or orcs or wargs is not on my agenda for the next few years. I think I shall opt to be Farmer Maggot. I am very fond of mushrooms!

  6. COLCHESTERRRRRR! I lived there for a year, in Colchester, I did, in Colchester! Yayyyyyyyy! I went to Cambridge now and then also, and, yes, it seemed like there were more things there. In Colchester there was this ONE really good fish and chips place (in Wivenhoe actually) and ONE really tasty tapas place in town that I could never afford to go to because I was really broke, and then that was like it. (Oh, and like three charity bookshops. England is so great with its charity bookshops.)

    • NO!!!!! How about that?? Most of my friends lived in Wivenhoe because it was in the catchment area for my school – my first boyfriend lived there so I did visit the odd pub and chip emporium in my time. Wow. I am still thinking about the delightful coincidence of that. I would love to know what brought you to Colchester – if you ever have a moment, do tell!!

      • I was studying there! It was my study-abroad year, and I did it at the University of Essex. Hence, Colchester. It was surprisingly sunny! Many’s the walk I walked down to the Tesco for my enormous blocks of cheese and other assorted groceries. (Or bus if the weather was crappy.)

  7. Miss Marple! Amazing dream, who wouldn’t want to live in her village (well, I would be dubious in case I got embroiled in a murder).

    1. What does the sisterhood mean to you, if anything?
    Feminism for the win! Very important.

    2. Do you think women are still disadvantaged in the modern world? And if so, how?
    Yes, it’s less obvious than it was – women have gained a lot of outward benefits men have always had. But, there is a psychology to the Patriarchy which still needs dismantling.

    3. Have you come across examples of ‘everyday sexism’ in your day to day life?
    I get paid significantly less than my male colleagues. I get complimented by strangers and have to be polite and accept it or I’m a bitch. I’ve been groped. Some of many issues.

    4. Which book would you most readily recommend as saying something important about women’s lives?
    Oh God, I can’t think. Off the top of my head, The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck.

    5. Supposing you and some female friends got together to create a publishing house that would be the new Virago. What sort of books would you publish?
    A diverse range of authors and fiction.

    • Love your answers! Thank you, Alice. I have yet to read The End of Days, but I really must because I’ve heard lots of good things about it. And I do agree about the psychology of the patriarchy and the total absence of equal pay. There is much still of a practical nature that needs to be addressed.

  8. My parents gave my many things including all sorts of practical skills from sewing and knitting to gardening and changing a car tire. I am grateful for it nearly every day.

    As to your questions, #2 and #3 most definitely and in so many ways it is exhausting to think about. It ranges as far up to the scarcity of women CEOs, the wage gap, the never-ending straightjacket of objectification and what a woman should look like and how she should behave, to pink screwdrivers and toolboxes and having the person at the hardware store explain things to your husband even though it was you who asked the question. And since I have been cycling more, the number of men who get upset at being passed by a woman on a bike is astonishing. Most of them are cool, but it’s the jackasses that you remember.

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