Young Critics Review Lichfield Literature 2019 – The Perfect Words and A History of Women in 100 Objects (by Emily Robson)
The regal George Hotel gave the presentation of The Perfect Words a suitable erudite atmosphere. The talk was structured as an interview where the two authors discussed and linked ideas from their books about quotation and rhyme. The former was quotation specialist Caroline Taggart and the latter was Diana Craig.
One theme which is particularly prevalent in both these subjects is the power and importance of old women who are often also a source of wisdom in literature. This character type dates back to a time when story tellers, mainly women, would recount tales whilst spinning. ‘To spin a yarn’ is to be a controller of a fate, weaving a story and shaping a story. I found this intriguing and very relevant to International Women’s Day where two female authors were discussing the power of words.
The theme of the empowerment of women was continued in A History of Women in a Hundred Objects. Dr. Janis Lomas discussed many unusual items that helped and marked a change in women’s history. A zigzag stitch on the sewing machine to the humble tap meaning that girls no longer missed out on an education by collecting water from nearby wells.
I felt that this presentation opened up your eyes to how many setbacks women faced and how, before the creation of these objects ,such as the refrigerator, contraceptive pill or the Barclay card. Women had been completely at the mercy of their husbands and men around them, or were slaving away at endless domestic tasks with little financial independence.
There was opportunity for audience participation after both talks. It was interesting to think that families each have personal quotations which are passed on through generations. One audience member commented that people seem to instinctively know the tunes linked to specific rhymes and wondered whether they could disappear over time which may cause a loss of the rhyme itself.
In the city of Lichfield where Johnson lived, a quote which is attributed to him: ‘I didn’t have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one instead’ interested me a lot. With this piece of advice in mind, I have tried to make this review to the point and will think about it when I write more reviews in the future!
By Emily Robson