Walking with Elephants

Walking with Elephants
Published: November 17, 2011
Bridget Jones meet Erma Bombeck — Walking with Elephants, a lighthearted slice-of- life story, brings to the table the serious work/family issues facing women today.   Suze Hall is at a crossroads. Her nemesis at work, Wanda, has been promoted and now will be her boss. Her husband, Bob, is leaving her and the three kids for a six-month sabbatical down under. To top it off, her best friend, Marcia, is missing in action–playing footsie with some new boyfriend!   Adding to this disaster stew, David, the gorgeous hunk who broke her young-girl’s heart has coincidentally popped back into her life and has something she desperately needs to keep her job. Walking with Elephants, a lighthearted slice-of- life story, brings to the table the serious work/family issues facing women today. It explores the modern dichotomy of a workplace that is filled with homemakers who still must cook, clean, carpool on nights and weekends, shop for prom dresses, and “create” the holidays–such as Suze. But it also is filled with women who have the same drive as men, have no family responsibilities, and will do what ever it takes to get ahead. So step into the shoes of Suze Hall and commiserate over workplace politics, titillate your sexual fantasies, ride the wave of a working mother, and fall-down laughing.

Reviewed by 

5 Stars

This is a highly enjoyable, expertly written and thought-provoking work of contemporary fiction that looks at the reality of the post women’s liberation world.  Women wanted the freedom to have a career, but the bottom line is that men can’t have the babies, so what women actually got was the burden of juggling two jobs–one to earn money and the other to bring up the children—often without the satisfaction of doing either job well. Karen Bell raises these kinds of issues in a delightfully entertaining read about a very real and easy to relate to woman.

Suze Hall is in danger of loosing her job, thanks to a reshuffle at work. A work mate who hates Suze as much as Suze hates her has been promoted and is now Suze’s boss. The company has been taken over and the stakes and workload raised. Wanda, the boss, gives Suze a task that is so out of her area of expertise that she is clearly meant to fail in order to give a good reason for Wanda to fire her.

At the same time, Suze’s husband, Bob, is leaving her and the three kids for a six-month sabbatical down under, and her best friend, Marcia, is involved with a new boyfriend, so Suze is alone with the kids.  As well as this, David, the gorgeous artist who broke her heart at college has coincidentally popped back into her life and has what she desperately needs to keep her job. Suze is forced to confront old demons—her feelings for David—and new ones—negotiating office politics to avoid being sidelined by her career woman boss who is keen to make Suze feel inadequate and unnecessary.

The issues are serious but the writing is light-hearted. The characters are delightful and very real. Suze goes through a kind of midlife crisis where she questions everything about herself and her relationships. The story raises all her insecurities, ones shared by woman of all ages throughout the western world, and her imagination throws up some romance novel options in her renewed relationship with David. They could lead her on a dangerous path but she’s smart enough to keep her cool.

One of my favourite bits is where Suze bemoans the fact that a woman no longer has the luxury of growing old, fat and respected—a kind of reward for her years of childrearing and the maturity and wisdom that comes from it. This would be a mature mother’s status in a matriarchal society and that’s how the story relates to elephants—not size, matriarchal society.

I recommend Walking with Elephants to every woman and I give it 5 stars and a place on the Awesome Indies listing.


When Women Were Warriors Book I – The Warrior’s Path

The Warrior’s Path
Published: November 25, 2013
Author's Twitter: @cmwilson_wwww
When she was a child, the author happily identified with all the male heroes she read about in stories that began, “Once upon a time, a young man went out to seek his fortune.” But she would have been delighted to discover even one story like that with a female protagonist. Since she never did find the story she was looking for all those years ago, she decided to write it. In Book I of the trilogy, Tamras arrives in Merin’s house to begin her apprenticeship as a warrior, but her small stature causes many, including Tamras herself, to doubt that she will ever become a competent swordswoman. To make matters worse, the Lady Merin assigns her the position of companion, little more than a personal servant, to a woman who came to Merin’s house, seemingly out of nowhere, the previous winter, and this stranger wants nothing to do with Tamras.

Reviewed by Evie Woolmore

4 Stars

The first volume in Catherine M Wilson’s trilogy not only takes us back in time to a Bronze Age community, but also back to a time when story-telling was a foundation of identity, of learning, of sharing, of preserving the past and of religious belief. And Ms Wilson is definitely a story-teller herself, infusing the whole book with that same instructive, atmospheric and narratively compelling style that define the age-old stories her character tells.

The novel is told in the voice and through the eyes of Tamras, a girl who leaves home to join a deeply hierarchical community of women warriors and their companions, and it chronicles her relationships with, among others, three principal female characters: her friend Sparrow; the warrior she becomes companion to, Maara; and the head of the community, Lady Merin. Eager to please and eager to learn, yet driven by her independent spirit, she must learn not only her way around the complexities of the community she has joined, but also how to trust her instincts in wishing to befriend the solitary Maara, whose loyalty is doubted by the others.

One of the great strengths of this book is its fluency, both in the way it is written and its readability. Tamras, like all the women in this book, is on a journey, and there is a feeling of great continuity about the story, as though one is following just one thread in a great tapestry of life. Certainly, when the first book ends you will want to read on to the next volume. What makes the story unusual, at least to some readers, is the almost complete absence of male characters: not until about three-quarters of the way through is a male character drawn with sufficient detail to make him leap off the page. For some readers that will be an enormous asset, for others it will make the book seem a little flat. The women warrior characters have many of the personality traits that male characters might bring, but for this reader there could have been a little more variation in character tone. Ms Wilson has captured the powerful and productive intensity that strong female relationships create, and their intellectual and emotional journeys will be very familiar and inspiring to many readers. But at times the book, for this reader, felt so constantly intense that some variation – more humour, a greater variety of personalities – would have been welcome.

And there, for me, is the missing 5th star. I felt while reading this that I was always waiting for something to happen. And that it never quite did. The characters seem constantly to be waiting for something, and while their internal journeys give the book that readability and fluency I noted earlier, and while there is a neat and satisfactory ending to one particular character journey at the end of this volume, the book had the same even pacing of its age-old stories, and felt almost too “story-told” to me. I longed to see the warriors fighting, to feel more of a rush in the pacing at times, and not just to hear about it second-hand.

Nonetheless, this is a highly readable book which captures its period and atmosphere extremely well, and will lure readers on to read the whole trilogy.