Plain-Speaking Jane (published 2015, memoir, Australian)
tl;dr A very down-to-earth memoir about anxiety, feminism (especially at work), hospitals and family.
Jane Caro is a well-known public figure in Australia; she has quite strong (and sometimes unpopular) opinions on topics that affect most Australians. She is an atheist and a feminist, but is probably most well known for her stance against private schools*.
Anyway, despite her strong views on education, this topic does not feature heavily in her memoir. Instead, she explores her life unflinchingly. There are some things you wouldn’t expect anyone to say so bluntly, or admit to. Her honesty is, I think, a very important part of the book.
She talks about having many boyfriends through school and university (“…high school was a veritable blizzard of steady boyfriends. In between there were flirtations, snatched kisses and boys I held relentlessly at arms’ length”).
Over the summer between the end of Year 12 and the start of University, she travelled around Australia. She was relentlessly homesick (“to the horror of my friends, I burst into desperate tears…I only held myself together by ringing my parents daily to sob out my misery.”)
Her anxiety is examined throughout the book (“It took me ten long years to discover that I suffered from an obsessive anxiety neurosis…I would be suddenly gripped by a desire to do something completely inappropriate, like yelling “FUCK” in a business meeting.”), as is the discrimination she faces in the advertising industry (“I was always seen as a riskier proposition (as a woman), than the bloke sitting opposite me.”).
I really enjoyed this book, and read it in two sittings. Jane uses a lot of Australian slang, but is also very eloquent when she is talking about really serious aspects of her life. A pretty big chunk of the book is talking about her university years and her twenties, so its quite interesting to compare her experience thirty years ago to today. As the title of the book suggests, Jane Caro is not sugar-coating anything. Her overall message is pretty much “there is pain in life, and you have to grow up and deal with it the best you can.” I think by showing us how imperfect her life has been, she is also showing us that you will be okay, “…by simply doing whatever it is that you can”.
* She strongly believes that a public school education prepares students much better for the rest of their lives than any private school could. Her argument is basically this: private schools attract a small circle of privileged families who can afford to pay exorbitant fees, whereas public schools are for anyone. She argues that the range of people you would therefore interact with at a public school is a better representation of the real world. You can see Caro’s reasoning; when everyone reaches university (and the workforce), publicly-educated students are better-equipped to deal with the people they encounter.