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She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life by Donna Ward

May 2020, no. 421

She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life by Donna Ward

Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 324 pp

She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life by Donna Ward

May 2020, no. 421

The confusing aspects of this book begin with the title, She I Dare Not Name. Instead, there is a whole book about this person, a self-described spinster. Then there’s the S-word itself, which has carried a heavy negative load since about the seventeenth century. (A minor irritation is the back-cover blurb, which describes this as ‘a book about being human’ – as distinct from being what?)

She I Dare Not Name is a series of essays in which Donna Ward explores herself as a single, childless woman. She tells her own life story, moving backwards and forwards in time. She was evidently a girl and young woman who expected marriage and motherhood to be part of her life. Presumably she intends to show how, through her experience of living, she has learned to assimilate the aspects of the person she is, wrestling with the difficult business of living, growing, being an adult. I was expecting her to grab the title ‘spinster’ by the scruff of the neck and send it packing, with forceful arguments about single women’s courage in rejecting unsuitable opportunities to couple and/or procreate, as well as their intelligence and general assertiveness, along with a few statistics about how much healthier, happier, and long-lived single women are.

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life' by Donna Ward

She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life

by Donna Ward

Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 324 pp

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Comment (1)

  • Thank you for this review. I bought this book because I am a member of a Facebook writer's group, and Ward had posted re her book on it. I was put off by the title but bought it, wanting to hear what she has to say. I too found it exasperating and wanted to discard it after the first few pages. Most of the reviews I've read laud it. I can't do this, and don't feel able to review it on my webpage. I have a sense of waste and futility when I read it. I have a different experience of silence and solitude, loss and loneliness, but each page I read closes off my hope of finding an anchorage in this rhetorical sea; statements like this: '... entering the territory of She I Dare Not Name was like being diagnosed with a degenerative disease for which there are no treatments...' make me want to throw the book aside.
    Posted by Christina Houen
    05 April 2021

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