Throughout history there have been women, endowed with curiosity and abundant spirit, who stepped out of the cave, cast off the shackles of expectation, and struck out for new territory. In this ode to bold, brash, and sometimes just plain dangerous women, Barbara Holland reanimates those rebels who defied convention and challenged authority on a truly grand scale: they traveled the world, commanded pirate ships, spied on the enemy, established foreign countries, scaled 19,000-foot passes, and lobbied to change the Constitution. Some were merry and flamboyant; others depressive and solitary. Some dressed up as men; others cherished their Victorian gowns. Many were ambivalent or absentminded mothers. But every one of them was fearless, eccentric, and fiercely independent. Barbara Holland evokes their energy in this unconventional book that will acquaint you with the likes of Grace O’Malley, a blazing terror of the Irish seas in the 1500s, and surprise you with a fresh perspective on legends like Bonnie Parker of “Bonnie and Clyde” fame. With wit, wisdom, and irreverent flair, They Went Whistling makes a compelling case for the virtue of getting into trouble.
A girl-power version of women's history, Holland's entertaining book chronicles the lives of women who have defied convention by daring to live as career criminals, soldiers, artists and religious seekers. The individual descriptions of female renegades--from Irish rebel Grace O'Malley to novelist George Sand and Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde) are breezily pleasurable. Holland (Endangered Pleasures; Bingo Night at the Fire Hall) maintains a droll tone ("Few husbands would rather have their wives seek truth than cook dinner") and juggles a range of historical examples with ease. The book's energy is hampered, however, by the author's sometimes simplistic rationales for why many women have stayed closer to home: "Even if she has neither job nor children, what will become of her house and garden without her, and will her cat starve and her friends forget her?" Holland's concluding complaint--that "careers... keep women in line more effectively than policemen or repressive husbands"--may strike some readers as overstated, as will her general lament for our "lost" sense of adventure, given that a large number of her heroines are queens, amazons, spies and outlaws (hardly role models the average woman can emulate). Still, hers is a brisk, enjoyable volume, likely to draw fans of such women's adventure books as Linda Greenlaw's The Hungry Ocean. (Feb. 20) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.