BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Women’ by Ashley Farmer

The Women Ashley farmer
Cover art of The Women by Ashley Farmer
Cover provided by the publisher

You know that book, that’s just a nice collection of randomness, pieced together in such an artistic way, that it’s worthy of being made into a notebook decorated with vibrant colours and plenty of glitter, or kept on your desk amongst the pile of things you are currently working on? You know that book, that if structured differently, would make a beautiful book of writing prompts? That book, that is basically a beautifully well organised scrapbook, that you could comfortably take pages out of to stick on the wall? Do you know what I’m talking about? Because if you do, then you understand exactly what I feel about The Women by Ashley Farmer.

The Women is a collection of wonderings about women. Each page takes a different topic, presenting an assortment of statements, thoughts, question or a combination thereof.

What’s intriguing about this book, is Ashley Farmer’s own description of the project:
“I started The Women in 2011 when I began Googling various women-related phrases: “happy women,” “sad women,” “women say,” and so on. Knowing that my online habits, browser history, and geographical location would all shape my results, I wondered what might show up. The searches returned fragments that ran the gamut of media types and texts: advertisements, news headlines, celebrity gossip, feminist websites, beauty tips, and relationship advice all filled my screen. Also among the results: anti-woman screeds, men’s rights activists’ propaganda, misogynistic ramblings, and tired tropes about women’s lives. Using the first seven pages of search results as raw material, I sought to collage and reconfigure what I found. While this project began with a concept, it is not conceptual. Instead, I found value in not simply copying-and-pasting these findings but in actively chopping up, stitching together, and writing through the texts. Through this process, the Google results that might have simply washed over me in the past acquired new meaning.”

You may wonder why on earth anyone would want to sit and read a book of wonderings about women. It is true that this is not the next gripping novel that you are going to be so obsessed with, that you’re not going to want to put it down, despite the fact that you know you could do with going to sleep. However, what this book is, is a beautiful collection of thoughts on women. It is best read in small chunks of around 5 minutes. It is suitable for those who want to think or perhaps those who need inspiration.

The main use I have found for it, is that due to the fact that I write a great deal, I found it useful to read a bit of The Women before I started my work. This is because, it acted as a means to wake my brain up, make me think about things in perhaps a different combination to usual. This is because of the weird combination in which Ashley Farmer has pieced together her thoughts on women. She lists statements under the same topic, that under normal circumstances you would never link together, but when considered, fit quite beautifully under the given topic. Therefore, I would recommend this book to writers, artists and any other creative person.

This book tells the tales of all that go on related to women. The things on the internet that try to make inadequate explanations out to be beyond adequate. The things men think of women as well as the things women think of men. The things women think of themselves as well as of other women. An unfortunate example of an internet quote, most fit to give an example of what this book is portraying, is the one Ashley Farmer uses at the front of her book:
“Q: “Why has society always been hard on women?” A: “Society hasn’t always been hard on women. Hope I helped.”—Exchange between strangers, Yahoo! Answers”

In terms of improvements, I would have liked less repetition on topics that are so commonly associated with women, such as: beauty and relationships. Women are always associated with these things, therefore in such a quirky book, I’d have liked a little more variety.

On the whole, I genuinely enjoyed this quirky little book. As much as I am a big fan of ratings, I would feel hard pressed to give it a rating, as it is in a totally different category to the books I’m used to reading. However, I would recommend the book particularly to people who are women, writers, artists, any other creative people or anyone who’s a wonderer and enjoys contemplation.

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