They Went Whistling: Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades

Barbara Holland, Author Pantheon Books $23 (304p) ISBN 978-0-375-42055-9
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)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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