In this panoramic work of history, Fraser looks at women who led armies, empires and rebellions: Cleopatra, Tamara of Georgia, Isabella of Spain, Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Jinga Mbandi of Angola, the Rani of Jhansi, and the 20th-century "iron ladies" Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi, among others. Her touchstone is Boadicea, the first-century Briton who led 120,000 compatriots in a revolt that temporarily shook the Roman hold on her country. With her as a vibrant centerpiece, Fraser brings forward a constellation of 17 women who, through accidents of fate or descent, or sheer genius for power, have been cast in the role of Warrior Queen--seen by her contemporaries as (often simultaneously) monster, angel, honorary male, one who shames men into bravery--and seen, long after her reign, as the focus of a golden age.--From publisher description.
I wish I had enjoyed the book more. But I found the author's constant speculation annoying, and her prose surprisingly uneven. Is it an accepted affectation to write a sentence without a verb? Her definition of 'syndromes' of associating powerful women with justifying male relationships is convenient but speaks more to the times of her biographical subjects than some deep fault in human character. Modern western society is not the first to attempt to honor women for themselves - in fact, i don't think we do a very good job. Her own comments indicate that other cultures may have done better, even if the public utterances rely on the formulas of her described syndromes.
The book did introduce me to aspects of world history I had no experience of, which kept me reading. I found the sections on Queens Isabella of Spain and Louise of Prussia particularly interesting, probably because I had some knowledge of other events of those times, and other subjects entice me to read more European and colonial history. But I'm not sure I'd recommend this text.
This was a particularly interesting read as Hillary Clinton was in the midst of running for President here in the U.S. -- it was very insightful to see that many complaints against Clinton (such as her "shrill" voice) were complaints leveraged among female leaders throughout history.
A timely, beautiful read. Can't recommend it enough.
If you want more information look elsewhere and it left me wanting more.
Avoid this one at all costs.
*Seriously, it's like saying Eleanor of Aquitaine was Polish.
I thought the book would have been more readable and more enjoyable if Fraser hadn't been so adamant about so explicitly linking all of the women with their predecessors. The constant references to the past do work to show a pattern of behavior and ideas, but it also makes the book too repetitive in places.
It can;t by its nature, be a detailed history, but there's enough detail here to provide some background and put the lady in question into a social and cultural context. There are also enough notes and references that further reading could be readily identified.
I found the evolution of the Boadicea myth through the ages the most interesting, who she was reinvented for each succeeding generation, moving from leading a bloody uprising to being viewed as an establishment figure. How times change. This was an interesting read, and one that shows that the more we think things change the more they stay the same.
Second, queens from non-europe was not featured as much as they should - be we have a queen from Africa and Asia, and I found these a lot more interesting than the rest of the queens. The writing is a bit dry, but British, and I suspect the information is well researched. Overall, a decent introduction into the subject, but I suspect there are better books on the subject.