Blue-Stocking Recommends

By The Bluestocking Team

Below are some recently released books and articles and some upcoming events, lectures, talks and exhibitions that may be of interest to Blue-Stocking readers. We’d love any suggestions for additional items you think are relevant. Simply email editor@blue-stocking.org.uk with the details.


Constance Briscoe, ‘Beyond Ugly’ (Hodder and Stoughton, 2008). The story of Briscoe’s mental abuse at the hands of her mother and her life beyond. Having gained a degree in law and a place in chambers, Briscoe’s life continues to be plagued with the idea that she is irreparably ‘ugly’.

Stephanie Merrit, ‘The Devil Within: A Memoir of Depression’ (Vermillion, 2008). At 29, Merrit had a son, a career as a novelist and a loving family. She also wanted to end her life. This is a first-hand account of living and coping with depression, focussing on resultant emotions and fears of being heralded a ‘mental case’.

Warren Lakin, ‘Driving Miss Smith: A Biography of Linda Smith’ (Hodder and Stoughton, 2007). Hailed by The Independent as ‘one of the best loved and funniest voices on radio’, Linda Smith was a national comic treasure, whose life, cut short by cancer, will be remembered as one lived with wit and grace. This biography, by lover and companion Lakin, tenderly remembers the public and private faces of an immensely creative and intelligent woman

Josceline Dimbleby, ‘A Profound Secret’ (Doubleday, 2004). A fascinating biography of May Gaskell, a highly intelligent and interesting woman, whose life was touched by some of the most famous men of her day: Rudyard Kipling, William Gladstone, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. The biography is written by May’s great-granddaughter Josceline, whose interest in her ancestry developed around the dark story of May’s daughter Amy, who was reported to have died young ‘of a broken heart’.

Julie Andrews, ‘Home, A Memoir’ (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008). Iconic actress Julie Andrews remembers her early childhood in Surrey, her life during the London Blitz and her early career. Acting in The Boyfriend on Broadway at 19, My Fair Lady opposite Rex Harrison and Camelot with Richard Burton, as well as in films Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music; Julie is a fascinating and creative woman with many interesting stories to tell.

Lisa Appagnanesi, ‘Mad, Bad and Sad: A history of women and the mind doctors from 1800’ (Little Brown Book Group, 2008). From Zelda Fitzgerald, to Marilyn Munroe and Virginia Woolf, Appagnanesi looks at the experiences of women who have suffered mental anguish and depression over the past two hundred years and our own attempts to conceive of and treat the extreme state of mind.


Check out ‘Ladyfest 200’, 23rd and 24th May, a not for profit festival of dance, music, poetry, music and debating workshops and performances, with the aim of highlighting and promoting the creative talents of women in our community. See www.myspace.com/ladyfestoxford08

‘Brilliant Women: 18th Century Bluestockings’ explores the image and identity of the independent creative woman in 18th-century Britain by examining the impact of the original ‘Bluestocking’ Circle through their portraits, graphic satires and personal artefacts; as well as considering the contributions of other bluestockings in history, at the Porter Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, London, 13 March – 15 June 2008, tickets free on door.

Last chance to see Elisabeth Gray starring in ‘I Wish I had a Sylvia Plath’, a play of her own device. Dark, satirical and funny, ‘I Wish…’ takes us through the last few moments of Esther Green’s life, before she dies from the fumes from her own gas oven. Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Belfast (2-3 May)

From now until 5 May, Tate Liverpool hosts the provocative and beautiful work of French-born and American-raised Niki de Saint Phalle. Self-taught Saint Phalle managed, through painting, sculpture and assemblage to channel her complex emotions and passions. Her resultant work was in constant metamorphosis, relentless in its pursuit of freedom against conventional sexual, political and aesthetic restraints.

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