Book Review: The Creation of Anne Boleyn

The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo is one of my favourite books, and definitely my favourite historical book. For lack of a better description, I would call it a deconstruction of the historical character of Anne Boleyn and her many portrayals in history and media ever since her turbulent life.

Divided into three sections, the book outlines the historically known facts of Anne’s life, her depiction in history after her reign, and then her various portrayals in media (books, movies and tv shows) ever since.

The premise alone however can not capture the witty, intelligent and clever writing that makes this book so enjoyable. Susan Bordo doesn’t hold back in her critiques of historians, historical fiction authors or screenwriters, producers and directors. She brings a fresh gaze to the recent and not so recent tropes often repeated about Anne, and draws patterns and connections in a way only someone who has dedicated a far chunk of their life to studying Anne’s portrayals can.

Bordo does the hard, fatiguing work of digging through the historical record, and then manages to organize and present her findings in a way that is clear, concise and entertaining even to someone who hasn’t spent the last few years of their life buried in Anne Boleyn related texts.

In case this hasn’t already been made clear by my raving review, I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone – anyone. Interested in history, media, fiction, popular culture or even just how a figure like Anne Boleyn can develop and change over time? This book will not let you down.


Book Review: The Blue Castle

I know, I know – I am incredibly late to the game in discovering this delightful story. Written by L. M. Montgomery (think Anne of Green Gables), set in the wild beauty of Canada and the odd societies people create, it’s possibly my new favourite. At the very least, I can envision it being one of stories you return to again and again.

All you need to know in terms of the ‘plot’ of this book, is that Valancy is 29, unmarried and unhappy. Events prompt her to drastically change her life, and this story is the result. Valancy grows in character and heart page by page, to the shock, amazement and slight dismay of her various family and friends.

Like with most of Montgomery’s work, there are detailed and captivating descriptions of the landscape and natural locations of the story. Even more captivating is her ability to describe people – physically and psychologically – in such a way that you immediately can picture them, mannerisms and all, in your mind.

If you haven’t read any of her work before, I’d highly recommend it. While the Anne sagas are understandably my favourites, I know they can be a bit overwhelming. Perhaps starting with The Blue Castle, this short, stand alone novel, is more manageable. If you are an Anne fan, but haven’t read any of Montgomery’s other work, I again highly recommend it. I especially enjoyed The Story Girl, but I think The Blue Castle has now overtaken it in my affections.

Do you have a favourite Montgomery book I haven’t mentioned here? Let me know. If you read The Blue Castle and enjoy, also let me know!

Book review: Literary Allusion in Harry Potter

For Christmas I was given Literary Allusion in Harry Potter by Beatrice Groves, which a) is the perfect present for me, and b) is one of the best books I’ve read recently. Here’s a brief review that tells you what I liked about it without giving away all the fun parts.

If you have any interest in Harry Potter or literary traditions ranging from Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Jane Austin, Tennyson, Homer, Plato, Ovid, and of course, the great literary work known as the Bible, then you will find something in this book to interest you. It takes the approach of analyzing both the works JK Rowling has explicitly referenced, the works she would have studied in her English Literature and Classics degree, and other works whose influence can be seen lurking beneath the surface of the Harry Potter text. It deconstructs major themes and plot devices, as well as character arcs, motivations and development and then builds up a picture of the rich literary text that is Harry Potter.

Reading this book has given me a deeper understanding of the story, themes and characters of Harry Potter, but it has also given me a greater appreciation for many of the literary works that inspired it. Links and connections that hadn’t been clear to me before now seem obvious (for example, Hermione’s parallels to Jane Austin’s Emma) (or her and Ron’s bickering relationship and it’s echo in Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing). Not surprisingly, I especially enjoyed the section on Harry Potter’s allusions to the biblical story, and how Milton’s work in Paradise Lost gives a clear blueprint of Voldemort’s character.

Despite the vast arrays of literature covered and referenced in this short volume, it is incredibly readable even if you’ve never encountered any of these works previously. It helpfully summarizes, translates and explains where needed to ensure the reader (you) gets the most out of what is being conveyed, without having to wade through dense text to get to it. Before reading, I was familiar with maybe 60% of the texts references, but found it easy to follow even those I’d never read or understood before. Reading this book has even inspired me to go back and read or re-read a number of texts.

The main thing that it has reinforced is that to be a lover of English literature is to be a lover of Harry Potter (and vice versa). For part of what appeals to me, and to so many others about these stories is the way it reflects back our shared consciousness and our shared stories. The stories Harry Potter tells are the stories we have always been telling – of good conquering evil, of friendship, loyalty, monsters and magic. Only Harry Potter manages to tell the familiar old stories in new and exciting ways, so different and fresh that it might take us a moment to realize that they are there at all.


I have a shelter in the storm,

I have a rock to cling to in the flood.

Jesus will not abandon me,

For he is my rescuer and redeemer.

He is mercy and peace;

grace and salvation.

He is my help and my hope.


Happy New Year.

The State of the Blog

My blogging break was longer than I expected. But here I am. My five week teaching placement is done and my assignments are submitted.

For complicated university logistical reasons, I can’t do my internship until term 2 next year, which is approximately April. I have an intensive subject to do that runs for a week in November. Otherwise, that’s it. That’s all I have to do to finish my degree and graduate.

I enjoyed my teaching placement. It was hard work and it kept me busy, and some days I felt overwhelmed. Most days I felt exhausted. Sometimes I wondered if I had managed to teach my class anything at all.

But I had lots of things filling my head. I had interesting things to think about and constant tasks to do. I couldn’t help but feel productive and purposeful. Working full time was surprisingly good for my mental health.

It wasn’t perfect. I had afternoons where I couldn’t motivate myself to do the pile of work waiting for me. Sometimes I felt very isolated and cut off from my friends. But overall, it was better than empty days and a lack of purpose.

But now I have a long break stretching ahead of me, filled with empty days and a lack of specific purpose.

I’m dreading this long summer. I’ve found some part time work, and I’m going to volunteer with the RSPCA and find some useful things to do. I’ll find some books to read and online courses to do. But it’s not the same – creating entertainment and purpose for yourself, rather than constantly working and being productive.

I know it’s a lucky problem to have – too much time and freedom. But for my anxiety and my ideal well being, I need structure and purpose and limits around my choices. Other people may love this unstructured life, but it is not for me.

How To Be A Global Feminist

I’m back to writing. Kind of. I actually wrote this post quite a while ago, but only getting around to publishing it now. But here it is. I’ll try and write a more cohesive update sometime soon. 

Jesus made a feminist out of me. When I see his love displayed at the cross and the way he loved women like we’ve never been loved before, all I want to do is make sure all women, everywhere, know they are loved and valued. I want all men to see that Jesus doesn’t discriminate or prioritize – his mercy and grace are on offer to all people, all times, places, races, genders.

Being a Jesus feminist, or a Christian feminist, or an advocate for gender equality – whatever term or phrase you prefer – is an important task, as there are still so many barriers facing women, even here in the privileged western world. But so often when I am thinking about the challenges I face, the issues affecting women like me, I forget the wider perspective.

I forget there are women from different racial and social backgrounds living here in my own country where their gender impacts their freedom much more significantly. I forget that many women don’t have the choices I do. I forget that in many countries, basic healthcare and education are still out of reach. Never mind equal pay, there are women working as slaves or indented labourers, and the things they make end up on the shelves in my local shops. I was so caught up in the arguments of who can preach, or teach or lead or serve, I forgot that my sisters in Christ are sometimes denied even the chance to read the bible for themselves.

I don’t want to downplay the very real discrimination and harassment women are facing in all countries. But it’s easy for me to forget that others don’t experience the world the way I do, and that my own concerns aren’t always the most pressing issue. So I am resolved to be a Global Feminist – a feminist for all women, everywhere.

Do you feel overwhelmed by it all? I do. There are so many issues facing women – it can be exhausting. There’s so many battles to fight – how do I choose? But what brings me back to these issues, to caring about women worldwide, is the cross of Jesus. He saved those who couldn’t save themselves. He gave us his life to restore everything that is broken in this world. When we have been shown such grace and mercy, how else are we to respond? God has shown us how much he values justice, and how far he will go to set things right.

To participate in his redeeming work, we must make room in our feminism for a global perspective. We must start looking beyond our own circumstances and show that in this fight for equality, we stand with all women, in all times and places. Don’t feel overwhelmed – you’re not alone in this pursuit. There’s two key areas where you can dog things, right now, to start being a Global Feminist.

Buy Ethically

Over the last few years I’ve been trying to change my buying habits, especially when it comes to clothes. I’ve become more and more aware that all the readily available, cheap, off the rack clothing comes at a high price – the lives of those forced to work in awful conditions for awful pay (or no pay at all). Big companies outsource their production, and those companies often outsource it again –making it easy for our department stores to turn a blind eye to who has really made their products. The International Labour Organisation estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labour victims with 11.4 million (55%) trafficked victims per year. Underprivileged women are the ones carrying the burden created by our consumer culture.

When I purchase cheap dresses and under-priced jeans, the cost involved in making the products doesn’t go away – it just means someone other than me is paying it. Usually it’s the most vulnerable people who are paying that cost. When I do that, I am communicating to the clothing companies, the world and to myself that I value cheap clothes more than I value the humans, often female, who are being exploited, under-paid and enslaved.

Value Education for Women

Education can make all the difference in the world for women. However, of the 100 million children who don’t go to school, two thirds are girls. There is an ongoing expectation in many societies that women take on the work involved in running a home – cooking, cleaning, childcare, fetching water – and girls start this work from a young age, often at the expense of education. But education can give women the power of making informed choices. UNESCO’s statistics have shown that when girls receive even a basic education, they marry later, have smaller and healthier families, are more likely to enter the labour market and to seek access to healthcare for themselves and their children. Education for women has been called the single most effective tool for development – when women are economically empowered, their towns, cities and countries benefit. You can support this work, through organisations like Women for Women and many others. You can show you value education for girls, and never forget the privilege of your own education.

Blogging Hiatus

Very soon, I will be starting a big block placement of student teaching for my Primary Education degree. This will take up most of my time and energy. As a result – I’m taking a break from blogging.

I’m hoping that after my placement and some time to recover, I will be back to writing and blogging and link collecting for you all. I’ll still be posting as infrequently and randomly as ever on my Searching for Grace Instagram account, as well as my Animals Abound account.

For your entertainment, I’ve compiled a list of old blog posts you may or may not have read before. Enjoy reading them until I’m back!

See you soon!

Imagination – Part 1 – Anxiety – on the link between my anxiety and my creativity.

Liturgy For The Broken Hearted – why liturgy speaks to me in my mental illness.

10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Clear Your Head – simple, easy actions.

What Is Bravery? – on not taking the easy way out.

Travelling Alone – my thoughts in anticipation of my first solo trip (which I survived!)

Simplicity – on minimalism.

Better Together – on Christian community that includes everyone.

Today’s Prayer – this is basically my prayer everyday.

How Long? – on Advent and waiting and darkness before the light.

Things I Liked In July

Each month I do a post covering ‘things I liked’ – from articles to videos to tv shows to books to anything in between. Here’s my list of what I liked in July. What have you liked this month?

15 Ways To Catch Up With Friends That Aren’t Grabbing A Coffee Or A Cocktail

Look I love coffee. But not all my friends do. Not all my friends are most comfortable and talkative sitting at a table surrounded by strangers. Here’s a list to jump-start some ideas about interesting things to do with friends.

Lifelong Vegan

Kamina, of Nina Kardia and We Write You has started a vegan coaching business. I did a session with her, and it was really helpful. You can read my testimonial here!

10 Famous Book Hoarders

I am a minimalist in every area of my life….except my book collection. Beautiful libraries are my jam. I loved this list of book collections.

5 Things To Love About Black Sheep

I’ve been going to Black Sheep at least once a week for almost a year now. It’s dog friendly and will give you delicious delicious coffee. Here’s some other things that are good about, as written by Milika.

Hogwarts School of Arts and Music

Twenty years of Harry Potter (see my reflection here) has brought the much loved book series back into the light of public view. I loved this piece which argues that most of the analogies people are making about the real world and the HP world get it all wrong. Have a read (please!).

Constraints Can Breed Creativity

I’m finding this more and more true – when I limit myself, I am freed to be more creative, happy and productive in the space I’ve made for myself, rather than being overwhelmed by the hugeness of the world and it’s options.


This blog is rocking my world and my heart right now. The above post gave me life on a day when I was tired and sad. It reminded me of the contradictory wonderful nature of my God and my faith. Lord, I believe – help my unbelief. It is all Jesus, all the time – I bring nothing to the table.

Everything Sayable writes has me saying – yes, me too. Here’s a bonus post on how to pray when you don’t know how to pray and here’s another bonus post on our hiding places.

Women and The Reformation Part 4 – Always Reforming

This is part four in my series on the Reformation and it’s impact on women. You can read part one here, part two here and part three here.

The Counter Reformation

The Counter Reformation is the name given to the Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation. Even before Luther and the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church was starting to adapt and change – this was certainly made more necessary, however, with the advent of the Reformation. Recently, historians have revealed the importance of women to the Catholic revival after the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent has been called the launch point for the Counter Reformation – the Catholic Church declared a number of the Protestant beliefs as heresies, as well as revising and confirming the Catholic liturgy. It shaped and defined the future of the Catholic Church.

In this period of history, women often used their social status to negotiate their own spaces for religious expression. Where the traditional institution did not make room for them, the women forged their own groups and positions. For example, women in the Benedictine convent of Überwasser used their elite social status as ‘members of the noble class’ to challenge the reform of their convent. The nuns revealed themselves as more than silent brides of Christ. As another example, the group of pious lay women known as the Lichtmutter (light mothers) were overseers of the provision of candles in the parish church, but who came to fulfill a range of duties including the collection of alms and church maintenance.

At the close of the Council of Trent Catholic society offered two respected roles for women: wife and cloistered nun. By the end of the following century women had numerous other roles available to them, such as nurses, teachers and activists. They were integral parts of the new Counter Reformation society.

Where are we now?

The Reformation and the Counter-Reformation changed society for all people. As we have looked at, it’s easy to notice the changes it brought to the lives of women, for better and for worse. But where are we now? What difference has it made?

Most Western Protestant Churches are still dealing with the ‘women’s issues’ and struggling to find answers. This is telling; women are still seen as an issue. The leadership of women, the place for women as teachers and preachers is still contested and viewed by many (both men and women) as unbiblical.

Of course, some denominations have embraced the idea of female pastors – though sometimes for societal reasons rather than the conviction of scripture – and even in these churches, women are still facing struggles their brothers in Christ are not. Women often still feel like second class citizens in the church family.

Always reforming

I think the Reformers would be horrified if the Reformation had stopped with them. Reformation is not a one time event in history, but an ongoing attitude and process as we look at the Bible as we make decisions around how we do church and how we follow God.

The world is changing – it was changing for the Reformers, and it hasn’t stopped since. We will always be reacting to events around us as a Church, and we will always be tempted to both cling to old traditions out of fear and to leap ahead without stopping to check before we jump. Instead, we must turn again and again to God’s Word, just as the Reformers did, as we evaluate where we are heading as a Church.


Assess the Effects of the Reformation on the Lives of Women in Sixteenth-Century Europe:

Review: Women in Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe: Private and Public Worlds (Social History) by Sherrin Marshall

Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History – Diana Lynn Severance

Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion – Rudolph W. Heinze

The European Reformations – Carter Lindberg

The Education of Women in the Reformation (History of Education Quarterly) by Lowell Green

A Key to Counter Reformation Women’s Activism: The Confessor-Spiritual Director (Journal of Feminist Study In Religion) by Patricia Ranft

The Protestant Education in the 16th Century:

The Influence of the Protestant Reformation on Education (Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences) by Mihai Androne

More Than Footnotes: Part 3:

Women and the Counter-Reformation in Early Modern Munster:

I Went To A New Church

Over the last few months I’ve started going to a new church. I’ll be honest and say this process hasn’t been easy, but it also hasn’t been as hard as it might have been. I’ve learnt a lot about churches, people and myself, and I thought it was time to reflect on that a bit.


I don’t like large crowds of people. I already knew this, but I’ve realized more than ever than a growth group or bible study with a few people is much easier for me than a church service with 60 people.

It’s okay to low expectations of myself in terms of social interaction at church, as long as I get to church. Even if I need to leave five minutes after the service ends or arrive five minutes after it starts, that’s okay – meeting with God’s people is still good and valuable.


My favourite part of church is singing songs about Jesus – for similar reasons to why I like prayerbook services. I think the first function of a church service should be the family of God telling each other the truth we believe about Jesus – through song, through prayer, through reading the Bible.

I’m not sold by the concept of a traditional ‘sermon.’ I don’t think it’s the best way to hear the truth about Jesus, encourage each other and grow in him. It would be different if it wasn’t so hard to preach a good sermon – but it is.


The first conversation isn’t hard. It’s the second, third, fourth conversations that transition into building a relationship that is hard.

People are generally friendly and kind. People are also busy and already in relationships. That’s okay. There will be people with space in their lives for you. Keep meeting people and you’ll find them.

If you’re going to a new church…

Taking it slowly is okay. You won’t feel connected and at home straight away – commit to a certain number of weeks before giving up. Inconsistent attendance is better than nothing.

Small steps all add up. Be friendly and open to possibilities. Keep persisting.

If you’re welcoming new people…

Be willing to not just have that first conversation with someone, but the third and fourth as well.

If you don’t have the energy or room in your life for a new relationship, connecting them with someone who does is a good idea.