In Praise of Difficult Women

I love this book so much I don’t know how to describe it. It’s blisteringly easy to read: finish one chapter and skip to the next to skim the opening page, only to find yourself finishing the whole thing and skipping to the next chapter to skim that.

It’s packed with funny asides. Frida Kahlo described Diego Rivera – never anyone’s idea of a handsome man – as ‘a boy frog standing on his hind legs’. To which Karen Karbo responds: ‘It’s safe to say that of all the traits men possess that are catnip to women – sense of humour, great hair, nice shoulders, lead guitar player in a band – “boy frog standing on his hind legs” rarely makes the average woman’s must-have list.

Above all I like it for vivid, pithy descriptions of 29 individuals – from Amelia Earhart to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Martha Gellhorn and Billie Jean King – who simply refused to stay in the shadows and be the ‘little woman’. I want a sequel and another 29.

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