“Notes to Self” by Emilie Pine

Thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

I actually finished this book a few weeks ago but felt I needed some time to ruminate about it before writing my review. This book deals with some really tough subjects and issues that have also affected me. It’s raw, unflinchingly honest and personal and I think many other women will feel the same affinity with the author whilst reading it.

In one of the essays the author details her struggles with infertility and her journey to try and come to terms with it. This is not one of those infuriating newspaper articles about a woman who stopped worrying about getting pregnant and magically did so. Pine’s experience of miscarriage mirrored my own so perfectly it brought feelings to the surface that I thought had been long buried. The loss suffered by her sister was desperately tragic and heartbreaking and made for very tough reading.

In the essays that make up the book Pine explores themes including addiction, fetal rights in Ireland, rape, body hair, poverty, weight, adolescence, feminism and loneliness.

Some quotes that really stuck out for me were:

“Perhaps the most corrosive aspect of a lonely life is not the time spent alone, but the time spent in a crowd, feeling left out.”

I feel like this is basically my entire experience of being distilled into one sentence.

Also:

“I am tired of being a feminist. I am tired of it being women’s responsibility to identify and tackle and fix sexism. I am tired of it being so necessary and so difficult. And I am tired of my own acts of internalising, tired of my complicity, tired of playing the game.”

Don’t we all feel this way? Sometimes it’s just so exhausting to keep fighting against the bullshit.

There were little anecdotes that really hit home for me e.g. how girls at school never ate the free sandwiches yet the boys did. As someone who has ran hundreds of workshops with free sandwiches provided for lunch, I couldn’t help but have a wry laugh at this. Grown women still don’t eat the sandwiches by the way.

I’m genuinely surprised at some of the other reviews I have read of this book criticising the author’s behaviour as a teen and her experiences of poverty. I can only guess some people have forgotten how utterly awful and lost some teens feel.

There’s a lot to unpack here and I won’t say it’s an easy book to read because for me it certainly wasn’t. I got a lot out of reading it though, and there are messages I can take from it into my teaching. I’ll be asking my classes what they would do if they weren’t afraid. What risks would they take? How can they feel the confidence to speak out against the things that have been done to them?

A moving, thoughtful series of essays which I highly recommend.

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