Tuesday, 29 July 2008


I have been enthralled and have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, ‘Can any mother hear me?’ by Jenna Bailey. I was introduced to it through a excerpt and review in the Readers and Book groups magazine ‘newbooksmag’ .

The book tells the story of a group of women in the 1930's who by chance came together and corresponded through a secret shared magazine. These women united for various personal reasons, but they shared the lonely, isolated existence of all housewives and mothers in the society of their time . They all felt a need to share and exchange their worries and concerns, feeling and needs.
Sound familiar so far?

Every two weeks a new magazine was compiled and posted to each woman, who in turn read it and wrote her comments upon it.

This poignant, informative and humorous compilation of a series of letters, experiences and as l see it, cries for help and recognition by other likeminded 'stay at home' mums, helped them to maintain their sanity.

It occured to me that the women in this book weren’t so far removed from ourselves; we are but a group women, mothers, wives (and dads too) who are busily writing our blogs (!) and I guess we probably reflect a much larger global exchange. The similarities of the women in this book though, don’t stop there, the women wrote under pseudonyms. Some of the women met up annually, some didn't or couldn’t for various reasons. In the 1930’s (and in some measure even to the present day) roles as wives and mothers went unrecognised.

So it was out of necessity that these women came to share and reflect with each other, especially in this unusual and innovative way. The experience for many turned out to be life changing.

So much of women’s lives has changed over the years since the 1930's or even 1960's, in fact some may say out of all recognition, women now have careers or children and some women have both. We now have help around the home thanks to modern technology and products, with small or no thanks due to the men in our lives (unless they invented them). But one aspect l think remains the same is the sense of identity and confidence women lose as their roles change from independent women to not so independent women, who endlessly try and balance and juggle, house, home, kids and all the other crap foisted upon us (wittingly or unwittingly).

We just have to get on and deal with it, as did these women and all our female forbears including our mothers and grandmothers.

The womens' correspondence continued for over 50 years, they shared a rare experience, made meaningful and rewarding friendships. Until now their stories and their magazines were frozen in time, as they were archived in boxes at the University of Sussex. From where it was uncovered by the author, who was so inspired by these womens’ writings.

The result is a compelling and uplifting book and l am staggered by the similarities that run through it, emotionally and practically.

l urge you to read it..

Plus ca change!

‘plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose’ - french phrase
Translated means – ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’.


  1. Off to buy it now, sounds fab, I'll have a read and get back to you. Thanks for the recommendation! MH

  2. Hi Fff,

    I found this unwittingly 'anti-man', but suspect this is not your take as you radiate fair mindedness in all that you write. I am not sure I understood this post, but that is probably the prompt to read the book.

    I think it had a 'put upon' feel that I cannot articulate.

    I may be wrong of course.

    Hope you are happy and well this simple Tuesday evening.

    BS5 :) x

  3. How fascinating that these women did this in the '30s and yes, so similar to our blogs, just a 21st century version. I shall be ordering this book from the library, it sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Just read bs5's comment, I didn't detect a 'put upon' feel, just a resonance with the eternal challenge of becoming a mother which seems to get more complicated with each generation. Maybe you have to be female to 'get' it?

  5. I'm with Working Mum on this one - most women really find it difficult having their identity pulled from under their feet, virtually overnight, and it's good to be able to talk about it! Isle of Wight was fab, hope you have a great time there too.

  6. Hi there! I do indeed think you have to be a woman to 'get it', and I clearly do not 'get it' as a chap, though that is by no means to detract from it. Does it have a chapter explaining why it is so fraught to compliment a woman on her hair?

  7. Aha, found it! Yes, this club is the latter day equivalent of blogging. I'm surprised this book didn't make a bigger impact - I think there was an interview on Radio 4, but that's it. Nicola


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Take the weight of your feet, draw up a chair and pour yourself a cuppa. Leave your troubles at the door and together we shall ride out the storms.
I will walk a while in your shoes...

Saz x

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