I haven’t been reading much lately, so I picked up this morsel-sized collection hoping it might snap me out of it. I was far too optimistic.
This little book is a collection of travel writing fragments from Lady Colin Campbell, a noblewoman who was famously unable to obtain a divorce from her husband during the 19th century.
Feminist icon and a Strong Independent Woman living in a constraining era, I thought Lady Campbell and I were going to get along pretty well, but she makes for a rather irritating narrator.
This book weighs in at less than 100 pages, and is segmented into nine short passages, but God it was an exasperating struggle.
A Woman’s Walks is one of those infuriating books in which you can read three pages, and then realise you’ve actually absorbed nothing the whole time you were reading.
It is also purple in the extreme, with paragraph after paragraph of over-descriptive fluff, and most of it less than original.
It’s strange, because you expect interesting people to have interesting stories to tell, but Lady Campbell seems rather tepid for a woman possessed of ‘the unbridled lust of a Messalina and the indelicate readiness of a common harlot.’
Her insights are, in most places, lacking in insight, and for all her pretty words she says little which means a great deal, or which hasn’t been said a thousand ways since. In fact, the primary concern of this book seems to be homage to its author’s bicycles, which feature in several of her adventures, and even have names.
‘…I regret to have to state that Biquette, the adorable machine built especially for me, whose curves are as great a joy to the eye as are her colours of dark blue and silver, whose paces in comparison to those of an ordinary bike are as different as are a thoroughbred’s to an ordinary bone-shaking hack – this exquisitely dainty combination of strength and beauty disgraces herself by a most plebian love of puddles.’
Lady Campbell also seems to have had an entirely unfounded and narrow-minded hatred of the German people, which I find a perplexing attitude in someone who was clearly trying to show her chums what a well-traveled, adventurous lady she was.
In truth, this book is only redeemed every so often by the odd phrase which strikes a chord (and which keeps you, by a hair’s breadth, from closing the book). I’ll let it keep two stars because it is very well-written, but overall this one just wasn’t for me.