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They Went Whistling: Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades

by Barbara Holland

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1643122,611 (3.46)7
Women weren’t supposed to take their lives into their own hands, light out by themselves, have independent, off-the-beaten-path adventures. Nonetheless, throughout history there have been women who cast off the shackles of expectation, stepped out of the cave, and slashed their way into history. Elegant, witty, sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, always perceptive, Barbara Holland tells us the stories of women, famous and infamous, celebrated and unsung, who have stepped over the edge. Here are Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde), Amelia Earhart, George Sand, Isadora Duncan, Mata Hari, Belle Starr, and their lesser-known sisters in adventure and spirit–Gertrude Bell, uncrowned queen of Iraq; Daisy Bates, Victorian anthropologist of the Australian aborigines; American pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Queen Jinjun of Angola. These irrepressible adventurers, who reveled in the limitlessness of possibility and desire, are brought irresistibly to life by Barbara Holland in a book that will entrance and delight readers.… (more)

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I generally don't review books I haven't read completely, but couldn't get over my annoyance with this one. I couldn't get past the introduction, particularly the paragraph that claims all the male characters are individuals, while the female ones are all the same except for hair color and other superficial differences. I'm not sure what books the author grew up with, but I certainly read enough stories where girls and women were main characters (brave, strong, smart, sometimes willful) and not just interchangeable bits of window dressing. (I'm also not sure I would've cited Stuart Little, the Black Stallion and the Little Train That Could as representative boys.) It's possible the author was trying to make the rebels she's profiling stand out, but she didn't have to do it by portraying the rest of womankind (factual and fictional) as dutiful and submissive.
  bostonian71 | Jan 25, 2014 |
This book is a compilation of mini-bios of such fascinating and diverse women as Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart, and Mata Hari.

I really liked it. I especially liked Holland's sly, wicked sense of humor. The book is well-organized into chapters that fit various and interesting themes that make it a breeze and a pleasure to read. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Sep 27, 2012 |
This delightful, witty, and often acerbic look at some of the many women rebels, renegades, and warriors of history had me chortling out loud. Holland’s opinionated prose is part of the delight of reading her works –- as one reviewer of another of her works put it, “she is not always accurate, but she is always witty”. Though I have been reading about women’s role in history for a number of years, (and my youngest daughter is minoring in Women’s Studies), I encountered a number of brilliant, intrepid, and downright audacious ladies in this book whom I had never heard of before. The book spurred me to read more about some of these fascinating women. ( )
  RachelfromSarasota | Jun 9, 2008 |
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Women weren’t supposed to take their lives into their own hands, light out by themselves, have independent, off-the-beaten-path adventures. Nonetheless, throughout history there have been women who cast off the shackles of expectation, stepped out of the cave, and slashed their way into history. Elegant, witty, sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, always perceptive, Barbara Holland tells us the stories of women, famous and infamous, celebrated and unsung, who have stepped over the edge. Here are Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde), Amelia Earhart, George Sand, Isadora Duncan, Mata Hari, Belle Starr, and their lesser-known sisters in adventure and spirit–Gertrude Bell, uncrowned queen of Iraq; Daisy Bates, Victorian anthropologist of the Australian aborigines; American pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Queen Jinjun of Angola. These irrepressible adventurers, who reveled in the limitlessness of possibility and desire, are brought irresistibly to life by Barbara Holland in a book that will entrance and delight readers.

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