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Cracking the Menopause* by Mariella Frostrup and Alice Smellie bills itself as giving you “all the information you need – with a generous side order of humour”, so does it live up to the hype?
Cracking the Menopause – eventually
Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of Mariella Frostrup and I learnt some important lessons from her documentary The Truth About Menopause in the early days of my “journey” (yes, I know. I hate that word too.) So it’s fair to say my ears perked up when I heard she was writing a book.
I was excited – especially when I got the offer of an advance preview to review. Did I want one? You betcha…
I watched the letterbox every day.
Tumbleweed. Not even tumbleweed, in fact, less than tumbleweed. Nothing. No book.
Eventually publication day came round and I bought the Kindle edition so I could get it straight away. Which actually means you can rest assured – as far as I’m concerned, this review has no PR link whatsoever and I am under no pressure (from me or anyone else) to be nice!
(I did get a copy a few weeks later, which I donated to a raffle for World Menopause Day.)
What’s in it?
Cracking the Menopause is a weighty book that promises a lot. When I asked Mariella** about it, she told me: “Cracking the Menopause is practical and informative – but we’ve also tried to add some humour, to highlight that it’s not all doom and gloom. We’re convinced that better understanding menopause will benefit us all, young and old, male and female, and that for too long it’s been swathed in secrecy and shame.”
It delivers this over 12 chapters, beginning by destroying the myths surrounding menopause over the centuries and looking at the science and ideas behind menopause through symptoms, HRT, diet, exercises and relationships to facing the future post-menopausal (and it’s not bleak).
Related issues, such as employment and how we view ageing and looks, get a good outing too, together with cultural aspects of the menopause and how it affects people with extra needs.
There are also first-person case studies from a variety of people who’ve gone through menopause, including celebrities, activists, politicians (or their wives), HR professionals…
Oh, and Pausitivity is mentioned in it.
We also have all the brilliant people campaigning for better awareness: Dr Louise Newson, Meg Mathews, Liz Earle, Diane Danzebrink, Dr Nighat Arif, Kate Muir and groups such as The Menopause Charity, MPowered Women, Pausitivity, Henpicked, the politicians taking up the cause and, of course, the British Menopause Society.Mariella Frostrup & Alice Smellie, Cracking the Menopause
Good taste. But we’re still waiting for a #KnowYourMenopause selfie…
Isn’t it just another celebrity menopause book?
One of my biggest bugbear with menopause books – especially celebrity menopause books – is that they feel they have to be “worthy” and teach a “lesson”. I don’t want that. I want a book that will explain menopause and have a bit of life and fun about it. You know, like 50Sense…
Cracking the Menopause doesn’t disappoint. You can hear Mariella speaking as you read and then the change when Alice** steps in (usually with a bit more factual content, allowing Mariella to share her menopause experience and thoughts).
I was wary about two authors – generally a journalist is hired to
rewrite support the celebrity. But Mariella is a respected journo in her own right and having the two voices works well. It’s like a signpost to “Fact” and “Experience” rather than becoming blended into one. And one thing I’ve found in MenoLand is that anecdote and feelings are quite often read as “data” so there is a clear difference here.
Plus, neither one is a doctor, so this is no dry medical tome that takes the life out of menopause. Nor is it a moanfest or an aspirational read (although Mariella gets inspirational about changing how menopause is viewed). It’s honest, educational and fun.
A fun menopause book?
Yup, that’s right. Cracking the Menopause is dry, witty and humorous, with wry cartoons introducing the theme of each chapter.
I loved that it doesn’t preach or assume I know nothing about menopause. Instead, it delivers the facts and information in a very accessible and inclusive way, talking to its readers as the grown-ups we are.
What I particularly like is that lifestyle is given just as much spotlight as hormone replacement therapy. Mariella talks about how she’s upped her exercise to support the impact HRT has on helping prevent osteoporosis, for example, and like many of us, grimaces when she remembers the amount of partying she’s done in the past when she thinks about the risk now of breast cancer.
There were many parts like this, where I found myself nodding along. Have they been spying on me?
However, there were times (I think it was when I got to Sandra Howard – aka Baroness Howard of Lympne) when I thought: “Another very middle-class case study. Therapists, actresses, former models – where’s the shop assistant at Greggs? Where’s the women from the working men’s clubs in Gateshead?” And I began wondering how many of them had private gynaecologists or private GPs or waited 20 weeks to see an NHS specialist only to have the appointment postponed.
Now that’s not a criticism of the writers or Cracking the Menopause. Having searched for case studies, I know you can only get the people who are willing to speak and if people don’t come forward, you can’t feature them.
But it’s a point I regularly go back to in my menopause work, most recently last week, chatting to the amazing warrior that is Karen Arthur. As they say: “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and I would have liked to have seen a few less professional women in Cracking the Menopause and a few more women who have to juggle menopause with paying the bills and working in a job they don’t like.
So should you buy Cracking the Menopause?
Oh definitely. Without a doubt, yes.
I acknowledge I have a bee in my bonnet about class diversity and have for a while now, but that’s not what Cracking the Menopause is about. Instead, it more than fulfils its aim to give you a thorough, all-round guide to menopause, from the science to the impact on our life and spirit.
And it does it in a light-hearted way without dumbing down and without emphasising one factor or treatment over others. It is a thorough, complete guide that is a delight to read. Anyone who reads it will come away with new information and a fresh insight into the state of menopause today.
I have a habit of giving away menopause books that I like if I think someone else needs them more. I’m kinda glad that I only have Cracking the Menopause on a Kindle so I can’t do that and it’s mine forever.
So, thanks for not sending the hard copy in time, PR person!
Cracking the Menopause* by Mariella Frostrup and Alice Smellie (Bluebird, £20) is available now.
**Don’t you love how I call them by their first names? As if we’re bessie mates 🙂
Check out my Handpicked Resources page for my choice of books, cosmetics, fashion and more to help you have a better menopause and midlife. And why not give me a call if you need help in your menopause? I’m waiting to help.
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