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The Invisible Woman

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Sixty is the new forty, we’re constantly told. Or is it that seventy is the new fifty? Yet fashionable clothes shops cater for little but elfin twenty-year-olds; magazines carry little but articles about appearing younger. Heaven forbid you try to apply for a job… Older women are permitted to be either part of the slippers and cardigans brigade, or to cling desperately to t Sixty is the new forty, we’re constantly told. Or is it that seventy is the new fifty? Yet fashionable clothes shops cater for little but elfin twenty-year-olds; magazines carry little but articles about appearing younger. Heaven forbid you try to apply for a job… Older women are permitted to be either part of the slippers and cardigans brigade, or to cling desperately to their youth and insist on being ‘young at heart’. Can’t there be a third way? A way to age with grace, security, beauty and adventure, and a way to keep your identity against a growing tide of voices telling you how you’d be happier if only you looked ten years younger. Covering topics from family, finances and work to cosmetics, fashion and sex, The Invisible Woman – which is also Helen’s Guardian column nom de plume – is a new sort of book about ageing; one that teaches us not how to avoid it, but how to enjoy it, grow with it, and thrive.


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Sixty is the new forty, we’re constantly told. Or is it that seventy is the new fifty? Yet fashionable clothes shops cater for little but elfin twenty-year-olds; magazines carry little but articles about appearing younger. Heaven forbid you try to apply for a job… Older women are permitted to be either part of the slippers and cardigans brigade, or to cling desperately to t Sixty is the new forty, we’re constantly told. Or is it that seventy is the new fifty? Yet fashionable clothes shops cater for little but elfin twenty-year-olds; magazines carry little but articles about appearing younger. Heaven forbid you try to apply for a job… Older women are permitted to be either part of the slippers and cardigans brigade, or to cling desperately to their youth and insist on being ‘young at heart’. Can’t there be a third way? A way to age with grace, security, beauty and adventure, and a way to keep your identity against a growing tide of voices telling you how you’d be happier if only you looked ten years younger. Covering topics from family, finances and work to cosmetics, fashion and sex, The Invisible Woman – which is also Helen’s Guardian column nom de plume – is a new sort of book about ageing; one that teaches us not how to avoid it, but how to enjoy it, grow with it, and thrive.

30 review for The Invisible Woman

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heather Reyes

    As I finished reading Helen Walmsley-Johnson's The Invisible Woman: Taking on the Vintage Years, I suddenly thought of Delacroix's famous painting 'Liberty Leading the People' - a strong woman holding up a big flag for us to follow. But then, again, that picture lacks an important element of this inspiring, comforting, and necessary book: humour. The author has the gift of writing with total honesty about what it's like to be a middle-aged woman in our sexist, ageist society, but does it with gr As I finished reading Helen Walmsley-Johnson's The Invisible Woman: Taking on the Vintage Years, I suddenly thought of Delacroix's famous painting 'Liberty Leading the People' - a strong woman holding up a big flag for us to follow. But then, again, that picture lacks an important element of this inspiring, comforting, and necessary book: humour. The author has the gift of writing with total honesty about what it's like to be a middle-aged woman in our sexist, ageist society, but does it with great panache and a sense of fun. And the energy she calls up in the reader, through her style and examples, is just the weapon we need to get the best out of potentially the richest part of our lives. This is not one of those suspiciously up-beat 'self-help' books written by someone who has never personally experienced the difficulties they are pontificating about solving. The author tells her personal story alongside the wider societal one, and that adds both conviction and interest to what she is saying. She doesn't deny the physical and emotional difficulties that can hit in the middle years, but she also gives us the good news - the best being that, based on scientific evidence, the middle-aged brain is 'the most powerful, flexible thinking machine in the known universe.'( Makes you feel good about yourself, doesn't it?!) I want to give copies to all of my middle-aged friends ...

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Reviews

    The Invisible Woman is an exploration by journalist Helen Walmsley-Johnson of middle age. This is often defined as being 45-60 years old and Helen argues that women in this age bracket often become ‘invisible’ as far as the media and potential employers are concerned. The writing is frighteningly honest, certainly thought-provoking, insightful, often amusing and from a male readers point of view sometimes ‘educational’. This is well worth a read that may prompt you to take some positive action t The Invisible Woman is an exploration by journalist Helen Walmsley-Johnson of middle age. This is often defined as being 45-60 years old and Helen argues that women in this age bracket often become ‘invisible’ as far as the media and potential employers are concerned. The writing is frighteningly honest, certainly thought-provoking, insightful, often amusing and from a male readers point of view sometimes ‘educational’. This is well worth a read that may prompt you to take some positive action to counter this perceived ageism against women of a certain vintage. You may well ponder on your current circumstances and consider some changes. The writing style is chatty and fun while the numerous topics covered provide Helen with plenty to play with. She is a likeable companion I’m sure you enjoy your time with her while reading through the book. Her stories are based on personal experience and sometime touching while her call to change opinions is feisty and well argued. I agree she makes some shocking claims that need addressing and I often found myself relating (even as a man) to the experiences she described. A good read that certainly leaves you with plenty to think about and consider. Not least for the effect of inaction on the next generation of female ‘middle agers', which may include you, your daughter or another relation?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    As soon as I heard the premise for this book, I knew I was going to adore it. Funny and honest, Helen Walmsley-Johnson takes us on a journey through the land of What-it-means-to-be-middle-aged. Though I'm far from being middle aged, I related to the hilarious narrative of blinding trying to figure out what the heck to do in life, of seizing the day, of dealing with the harder things in life like death. This is honestly a gem of a book and any woman, any human for that matter, will get a giggle o As soon as I heard the premise for this book, I knew I was going to adore it. Funny and honest, Helen Walmsley-Johnson takes us on a journey through the land of What-it-means-to-be-middle-aged. Though I'm far from being middle aged, I related to the hilarious narrative of blinding trying to figure out what the heck to do in life, of seizing the day, of dealing with the harder things in life like death. This is honestly a gem of a book and any woman, any human for that matter, will get a giggle or two from it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Poppy99

    This puts fire in your belly and a spring in your step. Essential for women who want to thrive in their middle years, in a world that just wants us to disappear. We are relevant, we are here, and not going anywhere but upwards and onwards. This is a book to refer back to when spirits are flagging to remind yourself that we are not other people's opinions of us. A big recommend. (Younger women should read it too, a manual for life.) This puts fire in your belly and a spring in your step. Essential for women who want to thrive in their middle years, in a world that just wants us to disappear. We are relevant, we are here, and not going anywhere but upwards and onwards. This is a book to refer back to when spirits are flagging to remind yourself that we are not other people's opinions of us. A big recommend. (Younger women should read it too, a manual for life.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Basma

    This book was great and a really pleasant surprise. I picked it up on a whim and read a few lines from the introduction page and immediately knew I needed to pick this up. At the very beginning the author notes that this book is about middle age and for middle age woman (and men but mostly women). I knew I was not the target audience but who cares really. She explores what is middle age and what's it like being within that group and coming to terms with it. She also discusses agesim within the di This book was great and a really pleasant surprise. I picked it up on a whim and read a few lines from the introduction page and immediately knew I needed to pick this up. At the very beginning the author notes that this book is about middle age and for middle age woman (and men but mostly women). I knew I was not the target audience but who cares really. She explores what is middle age and what's it like being within that group and coming to terms with it. She also discusses agesim within the different sectors such as employment, beauty, fashion...etc and the implications of that in relation to mental health and being skint (new word added to my dictionary and I love it). She breaks down some of the important attributes that are usually attributed to middle age women and how so much of them are bollocks, the numerous fears of which unemployment is one of them and the overall changes in the body that one inevitably goes through. Of course listening to one story or life experience doesn't mean it's applicable for all, but this really did help me in breaking down the stereotype and understanding certain parts that I never thought about or considered. It showed me yet again how it will always be important for us to feel that we belong and that we're able to contribute and do something we think is valuable. It has always been weird to me the idea that when a person passes a certain age that they're done for and it's time to shuffle them along and get the younger people in while they go back to their homes and live out the middle age stereotype that we have in our minds. This is applicable whether its in a work environment or even in fashion industry or anything big or small really. Especially when those people still have the brains, energy, motivation and experience. I have seen this happen around me and it continues to bewilder me and Helen Walmsley-Johnson talks a lot about this issue and how it's so much more important than we think. I think I'll stop here so that my review isn't too long but I have so much thoughts on my mind about this book and I'll probably go binge watch her interviews.

  6. 4 out of 5

    L. Toh

    I can certainly resonate with the author's musings and viewpoints. A splendid read for all middle aged women regardless of whether they feel truly middle aged. https://lifang-leehong.blogspot.com/2... I can certainly resonate with the author's musings and viewpoints. A splendid read for all middle aged women regardless of whether they feel truly middle aged. https://lifang-leehong.blogspot.com/2...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ben Hector

    A book that provides personal and honest insight into the plight of the middle-aged woman. It breaks down societal pressures including unhealthy employment rates & negative stereotyping, as well as a lack of representation in the media and the pervasive attitude of the stiff upper lip. She goes about redefining and criticising the notion of the 'mid-life crisis'. Her experience of sexism and the patriarchy was particularly shocking. 'The usual preparation for adulthood followed by my generation w A book that provides personal and honest insight into the plight of the middle-aged woman. It breaks down societal pressures including unhealthy employment rates & negative stereotyping, as well as a lack of representation in the media and the pervasive attitude of the stiff upper lip. She goes about redefining and criticising the notion of the 'mid-life crisis'. Her experience of sexism and the patriarchy was particularly shocking. 'The usual preparation for adulthood followed by my generation was an education, a couple of years in work (husband hunting), followed by marriage (to 'Tony from accounts') and children (which meant giving up work, becoming wholly dependent on Tony and coincidentally giving up your National Insurance contributions - something else that tripped us further down the line).' 'Walmers' is fun to read and is witty but ultimately I found the book to be a bit waffly, like it was trying to fill its 230 pgs. Nevertheless, here are some of the highlights: 'Personally I agree with whoever said that it's better to be alone than to be with the wrong person. I love men. I do. I'm just not rue I want one under my feet or in my bathroom... To be honest, I can think of few things more satisfying than waking on a Saturday morning and asking myself what I'd like to do today; being able to answer 'Anything you like, Walmers' is a pleasure I would find hard to let go.' Woman before 1982 could not get a drink at a bar unaccompanied. Women in their 50s face the widest pay gap of any age group. Women over the age of 50 and working full-time earn an average of 18 per cent less than their male counterparts (twice as large as the pay gap for women overall). Before 1977 women could choose to opt in or out of reduced rate of national insurance (which has now left them stuffed if they divorce). 37% of women in the UK have no pension at all and 'many expect to rely on their partner's retirement income'. Random fact: Our bodies completely regenerate our bones every 7 years.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This book started out well, developing the idea that women become less visible as they get older and perhaps they should be fighting back against that. It's a theme that has been discussed widely in the media in the last few years and she brings some insight to it. She tells quite honestly how she used to rely on her looks to 'get on' and how difficult she found life when those looks began to fade. Her relationship broke down around this time and she found herself having to find a new home and a This book started out well, developing the idea that women become less visible as they get older and perhaps they should be fighting back against that. It's a theme that has been discussed widely in the media in the last few years and she brings some insight to it. She tells quite honestly how she used to rely on her looks to 'get on' and how difficult she found life when those looks began to fade. Her relationship broke down around this time and she found herself having to find a new home and a job in late middle age. However, I felt that it lost its way in the middle. She admitted that writing the book was part of her scheme to support herself, which is fair enough, but I felt there was far too much about how desperate she was to finish it and for it to be successful. Parts of the book were less coherent, less thoughtful, less well-written and veered more towards a personal cry for help. The first third was worth reading but I skimmed a bit after that.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Brave brave lady saying it how it is for so many older women particularly those without a partner. Honest, humorous and without holding back. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and Helen is definitely testament to that. Not sure ageism, sexism or exclusion from employment market for older women will ever change - we can but hope. Pleased she and Puskins have found peace in Rutland.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dee

    Brilliant! The essential read for women who’ve experienced life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Candyce

    If you're a middle aged, wife, mother you will relate. I felt validated ! 😁 If you're a middle aged, wife, mother you will relate. I felt validated ! 😁

  12. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    Loved this book for it's frank, humorous take on what women face in middle age. Loved this book for it's frank, humorous take on what women face in middle age.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    an awful lot of navel gazing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Audiothing

    Paperback Edition. http://audiothing.blogspot.com.au My Review As stated in the opening lines, most of those reading this book will be women in their middle years, and that's certainly true as far as this reader goes. Being a tad older than Helen Walmsley-Johnson I can relate to much of what she has to say as, I'm sure, do so many others. I didn't know what to expect from this book, I wasn't sure if it was for me because I don't quite fit with either the slippers and cardigan brigade (though I do o Paperback Edition. http://audiothing.blogspot.com.au My Review As stated in the opening lines, most of those reading this book will be women in their middle years, and that's certainly true as far as this reader goes. Being a tad older than Helen Walmsley-Johnson I can relate to much of what she has to say as, I'm sure, do so many others. I didn't know what to expect from this book, I wasn't sure if it was for me because I don't quite fit with either the slippers and cardigan brigade (though I do own both) or the clinging to youth mob. Well, I've read it now, even re-read several parts, and yes, this book is for me, it's a book for all women. Many men would do well to read it it too This is about how one woman faced and overcame the odds. The story of how she arrived at the place she is now. Helen describes herself as being a boom and bust person, and I have to say, the evidence sure supports that statement, talk about a roller coaster ride! Some life events are described quite succinctly, yet in themselves could provide the topic for a whole new book, for instance: Helen, as expected of us back then, was duly married and that marriage provided her with security, a comfortable life and children, and then? bust! Can you imagine losing not only that lifestyle, but far worse, the custody of your three children as the result of a nasty divorce? The stress of the fight to win them back and then, with next to no money, provide a home for them? She did that, she used her wits and intelligence to find work when there was little to find simply because she had to, as mothers do. When her children were grown up she returned to full time work but lost her job. This is the part where Helen meets both ageism and the lack of work opportunities. Unable to find satisfying work, at the age of 45 she decides to go for "boom" again, up sticks and move to London to get herself a good job. Well, O.K. say it quickly and it doesn't sound much, but think about it, that is brave! I can remember going to London to work, in my forties, feeling overwhelmed by everything and everyone rushing everywhere, yet I had the security of a job and accommodation! She must have been darned good though, as eventually (with quite a story in between) she became PA to the editor in chief of The Guardian where her job description is pretty awe-inspiring, making and editing films, arranging high powered meetings, attending social events and being a fixer. Let's not forget too of course, her "Vintage Years" column which was my introduction to Helen Walmsley-Johnson, even though she was invisible at that time. I love Helens thoughts on cosmetic surgery, so spot on, amusing, yet somehow a sad aspect of what is becoming the social norm for those women desperately seeking a youthful appearance. However, I've no idea what "vajazzling" is, I didn't want to google it though, for fear of dropping dead and someone finding it on my browsing history. Thanks to Helen relating a few personal anecdotes I now feel better about waking up at 3am, much better, because now I know it's actually an investment, not merely a bloody nuisance! Oh! and then there's The Lipstick Phenomenon, yes I've noticed that too, no wonder red is still the most popular colour sold. We can't do anything to stop the ageing process but Helen does give out some jolly good advice on how to live with it, how to make the best of it and be comfortable with ourselves. There's one part of the book which does stick in my mind, it's about defining the middle years, of conforming to those boundaries as perceived by others. Helen observes something I hadn't given much thought to, that it's usually the young who feel uncomfortable with any signs of non-conformity amongst the wrinklies. Well, fair enough I suppose, nobody wants their granny to be seen out clubbing dressed like a Cher knock off. Then again (and this is my opinion) isn't it the duty of older people to embarrass the young? To be honest, I find this book hard to categorise, it doesn't quite fit the usual self help, social commentary or memoir genres, what its not though is a lighthearted romp through the life and times of a lady who copes, goodness knows, we all cope, but it is rather the story of a woman of courage, strength and determination. Oh sure, the writing is warm, funny and inviting, and the style, it's so charming, so understated that the author makes it easy for us to minimise or even gloss over the sheer magnitude of her achievements. I highly recommend this book, I'd love young women to read it despite the fact that I suspect I wouldn't have, or, even if I had, probably wouldn't of taken a blind bit of notice. Disclaimer. This book is my own copy I received no compensation for this review

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mary Karpel-Jergic

    This is a wonderful book; I enjoyed it immensely. This is a call to arms in one respect to confront ageism and sexism in our culture; it is an uplifting self-help manual for those of us wondering what the hell happened to us once we reached a certain age; it is an honest and insightful memoir of Walmsey-Johnson's experience of middle age. It is funny in places (caused me to chuckle) but equally serious with regard to some of the more generalised aspects of ageing in our current culture. It packs This is a wonderful book; I enjoyed it immensely. This is a call to arms in one respect to confront ageism and sexism in our culture; it is an uplifting self-help manual for those of us wondering what the hell happened to us once we reached a certain age; it is an honest and insightful memoir of Walmsey-Johnson's experience of middle age. It is funny in places (caused me to chuckle) but equally serious with regard to some of the more generalised aspects of ageing in our current culture. It packs a punch with data resourced from reputable sources along with first hand experience; a remarkable narrative. I found reading her book was like finding the perfect friend to mull over some of the feelings I've been facing about ageing. So much of what she said resonated loudly with me, I wanted to cheer - me too! Me too! This is a book for our day and age and how refreshing to have a book written about this topic from a woman without privilege. Don't let the double barrelled name fool you - this is a resilient woman who has had to face numerous life struggles both personal and economical. This was the story of her 50s - I look forward to the follow up where she looks back on her 60s.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marianne Kelly

    A good read on a subject that interests me. Walmsley Jones writes well, venting her anger. Makes some good points, and gives some advice too. Lacks a solid conclusion, or a call to action. What action?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Vivien

    I would recommend this to all 'middle-aged' women. There are facts and figures in it to make your blood boil inter-twined with the author's story. Most shocking of all is how hard it is for women of this age to find employment. But there is a lot more useful information than that - read it. I would recommend this to all 'middle-aged' women. There are facts and figures in it to make your blood boil inter-twined with the author's story. Most shocking of all is how hard it is for women of this age to find employment. But there is a lot more useful information than that - read it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Teresa D

    Loved it,My bum has disappeared too !

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jean M

    Splendid stuff! Full of insightful observations into the plight of the woman of the middle age. Gives you the push to remember you only have so much time...don't waste it. Splendid stuff! Full of insightful observations into the plight of the woman of the middle age. Gives you the push to remember you only have so much time...don't waste it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Fifi

  21. 4 out of 5

    Teresa Savage

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Smillie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andreana Drencheva

  25. 5 out of 5

    Linda Harper

  26. 4 out of 5

    Judith

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joan Scott-Mackenzie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pat Miller

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kaustubh Joshi

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