A Little Give by Marina Benjamin [8/10]

Marina Benjamin is that rarest of chroniclers: unflinching, reflective, eloquent, oddly unsystematic but all the better for it. “A Little Give: The Unsung, Unseen, Undone Work of Women” follows her brilliant Insomnia, a book that entranced me but also proved to be solidly useful. In this outing, she muses about aspects of life sometimes tagged as “women’s work,” although nearly every essay resonated with my experiences. The many paradoxes of housecleaning, its horridness ranged against its virtuous necessity overlaid by our inherited strictures, are tackled from a number of angles, all worth reflecting upon. Her repeated reflection about caring for the sick or elderly reminded me of my years helping look after a disabled brother, and she nails the impossibility of succeeding in the eyes of either the carer or the cared-for. I am a “non-dog person” who was a besotted dog owner for a decade and a half; the author’s joys from her dog reminded me to open up my heart again. Benjamin’s essayistic insights blend seamlessly with stories from her life and drawing from the works of others. Always she is fluent yet direct. The reading is a boon and I have turned around to commence a second pass.

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