Both are books about oppression cruelty bigotry and love. Both, ultimately, are stories of women’s victories over enormous adversities.

Read it hear it!

By Ralph McAllister

I was reading Norman Lebrecht’s superb study of the symphonies of Mahler and had just started on his analysis of Mahler’s third when, guess what started on the Concert Programme?

Yes, the Mahler third.


Topical coincidences

Author Alex Perry

Next, within two days, two of my favourite people recommended books which will remain in my memory for a very long time.

First,  Kaye at Paper Plus, suggested I read The Good Mothers  by Alex Perry.

The next day Tilly at Unity Books ordered me, nicely I hasten to add, to read Educated by Tara Westover.


Both are books about oppression cruelty bigotry and love. Both, ultimately, are stories of women’s victories over enormous adversities.


The good mothers take on the mafia

The Calabrian mafia, ‘Ndrangheta, has dominated southern Italian life for centuries.

Based on family loyalties, generations are born into, live and die within the rigid structure of the male dominated society.

Try to break away and all hell is let loose. To collaborate with the police is a sentence of death.

Three women in separate actions in 2015 met with Alessandra Ceretti, the police prosecutor.

The stories of the women are told in horrific and graphic detail. Two die.

But, a bit like the Me Too movement, finally, women all over Italy had had enough.

Demonstrations began, the mafia was challenged.

More and more women collaborated, showing, ironically, the very strengths that the mafia had underestimated for so long.

This is an inspirational account, and, while the ‘Ndrangheta, will never vanish completely, their power will never be the same.

Tara Westover breaks out

Even more inspirational perhaps is 27 year old Westover’s account of her upbringing in a Mormon family in Utah.

Tara had no education, was sorting scrap in her father’s business from the age of 7.

Totally isolated , except for church meetings on Sunday, she lived a life of abysmal hell.

No medicines, except for her mother’s herbs. No hospitals, doctors, safety rules, no contact with the outside world, God’s will prevailed.

Somehow, after a death defying battle, she gets to attend a Mormon college.

She sits in a first lecture at 15. Other students ask questions of the professor. She sees a word she doesn’t know. She raises her hand. “I don’t understand that word”

Deathly silence. Surely she is joking.

Later she discovers what she has asked. The word was holocaust.

Moving and inspirational

Tara Westover

It is not often that I have to stop reading because of my own tears.

This happened time and time again during this education.

If you might be thinking that this book is not for you, join the club, I thought the same when Tilly started her recommendation.

But it is beautifully written shot through with love and, eventually, understanding.

And, if you want a happy ending, Westover is now a PhD and teaching at a university.

Easily one of my books of the year.

Thank you Tilly.

Thank you Kaye.



Ralph, I have a copy of ‘Educated’ in my hand as we speak, about to wrap it up for a present for my daughter, a long serving teacher. Haven’t read it yet myself, but Allie swears by it. So there. Great minds… etc. Some a week or two behind. Regards, Don

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