Sunday, July 3, 2011

An admirer returns from Norway

One of the highlights of the week was meeting Bee Rowlatt, who recently journeyed to Norway on a Mary Wollstonecraft pilgrimage. She is the one who I said had a baby under one arm and a book proposal under the other. Bee found Mary first through the Romantic letters rather than the rational essays, which is fitting, since her first book, Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad, was about an epistolary friendship with an Iraqi academic. (More here.)

Bee got to experience Scandinavia at Solstice, or near enough, and met a Cockney ship's captain, and stayed in the garden of a Communist mayor, and had a fortnight alone with her almost year-old son William (a good name!), who proved to be a great ice-breaker.

Bee has an article coming up for the travel section of the Telegraph [edit: here], and then, more ambitiously, a book! I referred before to Melissa Benn and her Madonna and Child: towards a new politics of motherhood. Another book that came up in discussion was the recent How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran: something zeitgeist-y. Bee uses the phrase "super lightweight" for what she has in mind, some sort of a meditation on Mary Wollstonecraft then and now, and being a woman and a mother, combined with a travel narrative. No book contract yet -- all offers considered.

Bee is a woman of many talents. For one thing, she had the determination necessary to get her new friend out of Iraq and to safety in England, and I know enough about the refugee process to know it is a long and spirit-sapping bureaucratic paper-chase. Bee works at the World Service, and rides a bicycle like many sensible Londoners, and is beautiful, in a healthy scrubbed effortless way, and can pronounce T√łnsberg quite convincingly. Her children are charming -- at least, the 75% of them that I got to meet when she brought them to Mary's St Pancras graveside, where the kids ran around and she told me about her trip. What an adventure!

By Hesse1309 (Own work) [GFDL ( 
or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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