Review | For Women’s History Month: 3 new audiobooks that celebrate women

Review | For Women’s History Month: 3 new audiobooks that celebrate women

Rifling through the great junk drawer of history, Hirsch has come up with 101 miscellaneous treasures — some unexpected (George Sands’s right arm), some obvious (the contraceptive pill). Each contributes its tale to the history of women: a healed femur (Margaret Mead’s answer when asked about the first sign of human civilization), a washing paddle (“an essential piece of equipment for any country-dwelling woman”), a Remington typewriter (new jobs, new ways for women to express themselves), the minidress (“the garment of the sexual revolution”), Kim Kardashian’s ring (“exhibiting yourself isn’t without its risks, but it also bestows power”). The book’s final entry is “a bunch of hair,” an inclusion meant to highlight the omission of the headscarf or veil, an article whose complex significance fills this provocative chapter. The work has been greatly enhanced in the audio version by the voices of 101 (chiefly British) women, itself a truly daunting achievement. An elegant-voiced Helen Mirren gives us perfumed gloves, Helena Bonham Carter celebrates the hatpin, Kate Winslet handles the cinematograph, Lisa-Kaindé Diaz waxes breathily over Chanel No. 5, and hard-nosed Val McDermid presents the thumbscrew. And somehow, strangely, Angelica Huston has ended up with Tupperware. Endlessly fascinating and diverse in the voices presenting it, this is a wonderful, kaleidoscopic exploration of history. (Random House, 13 hours)

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