Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Bolder and Wiser - Sarah Dale

Today I am pleased to be part of the blog tour for Bolder and Wiser by Sarah Dale. Below are my thoughts on the book, an excerpt from the book, and an international giveaway!

'I suspect we would all be surprised by what we discovered if we took any group of twenty women over sixty and listened to them properly.'

With the subtitle 'Remarkable Conversations with Older Women', this is a wonderful collection of thoughts, reflections, hopes and lived experience of twenty women aged between 60 and 85, brought together by author and chartered psychologist Sarah Dale. Being in my thirties, initially I wasn't sure how much of relevance I would find here, or whether it would strike a chord with me, but I'm so glad I read it because I found it fascinating and extremely insightful reading.

The author sets out in her preface what drew her to thinking about this time of life: '...with fifty lurking just beyond the horizon, I can feel the stirring of another stage of life.'...'I set out to find twenty women, all at least ten years older than me, who were willing to chat to me about what matters and what doesn't, as they look back.' As she briefly considers the way things have changed in women's lives over the past couple of generations, and how big some of the differences are, which makes it fascinating, I think, to hear these older women's voices: 

'The whole concept of older women with energy, choice, education, and much closer to equal status with men is therefore relative new, and still evolving. There isn't much of a road map. The generation I've been interviewing is at the cutting edge. It feels important to me to hear what they have to say about it.'

As I read, through chapters including thoughts on marriage, parenthood, work, amongst many others, I was invigorated by some of the wonderful, sage advice these women have been kind enough to share, passing on the wisdom of their varied experiences as they look back. In particular, I loved the 'what matters' and 'what doesn't' summaries of each chapter, as well as the 'advice for younger women' and also the section introducing the women, because it was so interesting to read about their backgrounds. Sarah Dale even asked each of them to recommend a couple of favourite books, which also appealed to this fellow bookworm.

I would certainly recommend this book, it's definitely worth your time whether read all at once or dipped in and out of, the author has skillfully collated the results of her interviews and integrated these with reflections on her own experience to produce a thoughtful and inspiring read with thoughts from intelligent, lively, strong and courageous women. Also as a younger woman who doesn't have many older women in her daily life, and who is prone to worrying and indecision, it has offered me the chance to share in some valuable life experience, as well as some things to really think about and some great advice that I think could improve my life, and I genuinely thank the author, and the women who collaborated in this work, for this.

I'll leave you with a few quotes from some of the advice for younger women that I loved and which struck me as particularly wise:

'Don't let anybody (yourself included) stop you from trying what you always wanted to explore or experience.'

'Life is a learning curve and the more you know the more you realise how little you know and how much is left to learn.'

'Never think you've left something too late, that the chance has passed you by.'

'Enjoy being young and don't be too concerned with how you look because you will look back and realise you were lovely and fresh.'


About the book...

Hit 50 yet? Sarah Dale is about to. This impending event set her wondering about successful ageing, what life looks like for women who have been there and done that, and what adventures are to be had on the other side of 50.

In this fascinating and celebratory book, Sarah talks to 20 inspiring women who have not only made it past 50, but are happy to be there.

These open and honest conversations, punctuated by Sarah’s observations about her own journey, reflect on friendship, work, health, creativity, marriage, motherhood, money – and whether you should stop dyeing your hair.

About the author...

Sarah is a practising occupational psychologist and accredited coach. She designed the structured coaching programme, Creating Focus®, and is the author of Keeping Your Spirits Up, a guide to facing the challenges of modern life. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, two daughters and step-son. Her moments of leisure are spent Nordic walking, reading fiction and frequenting coffee shops, the more independent the better. She secretly loves a good jigsaw.

You can find out more about Sarah Dale on her website, or by following her on twitter (@creatingfocus) or on Facebook (Sarah Dale – author).


On a beautiful day in August, we seek out a wild swimming spot on Dartmoor. It is an idyllic setting, an ancient grassy common on the bend of the river, overhung by lush oak and beech trees in full summer leaf. Dappled sunlight falls across wet children sleek and glossy as seals, and their shrieks bounce off the rock face as they dare each other to ever higher leaps from the bank.

I bring up the rear of our little family group, as we haul our picnic and towels from the car park. My varifocals and unsteady flip flops, as well as customary caution, result in me being slower than everyone else in making my way along the uneven riverside footpath.

I imagine, if I were living in some fictional primeval tribe, that I might soon be discarded. What do I bring to the party? Am I becoming a liability? As a woman approaching fifty, I no longer offer physical strength or child-bearing potential. If I ever was physically daring, I’m less so now. The brief appeal of dipping in the river chills as quickly as my feet when I test the temperature.

I’m no longer the quickest, strongest or the one with the loudest voice. I have fulfilled my reproductive purpose, if that is what we are here for. I won’t have more children and my daughters are growing in independence on a daily basis.

But I don’t feel ready to resign myself to the background yet. In many ways I feel that my work has barely started. Am I deluded in thinking I have some valuable contribution to make? What shape will it take? What exactly is my purpose? And does it matter?

The women I have had conversations with over the last months have a wide range of views and experiences. My initial response is relief that not one of them is invisible. Their contribution may sometimes be subtle but is often all the more powerful for that.

It is like a dew-laden spider’s web: visible if you look for it; awe-inspiring in its construction; efficient, beautiful and very strong in its natural habitat. It is also very easily swept aside by those clumsily making their way through life without stopping to notice what is right in front of their faces. The corporations, institutions, families and generations who ignore older women are losing far more than they realise. Society needs older women like the world needs bees. 

I have heard from women, all of whom are at least sixty years old, who hold things together. They quietly and relentlessly challenge injustice. They support and soothe and organise and nurture. They lead the way. They laugh. They struggle, and doubt themselves. They keep going, and encourage others to keep going. They see the bigger picture as well as the tiny details of life that matter. They are a curious mix of astonishing patience and exasperated energy. They care.

I have paused for a while in my middle-aged rush of busy domesticity where work and motherhood uneasily co-habit, backlit in recent years by my own uncertainties about ageing. I have stopped to listen to these ordinary, yet extra-ordinary, women. I expected interesting things.

However, I didn’t expect the project to be so immediately and intensely personal. It has confirmed or challenged my own views of what matters and what doesn’t. It has left me with clearer ideas about the kind of older woman I would like to be. It has reassured me. It has been time well spent.


The International giveaway on this tour is 1 x paperback copy of Bolder and Wiser.  Entry is via the rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thank you for this Lindsay - really thoughtful - and just in case your readers are interested, here's a few thoughts on what we might tell our younger selves, as gathered from the book launch. What would yours be?

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Sarah!

  2. Fabulous book! Finally, people are admitting the we older folks are . . . older. And with experiences!

    1. Thanks for commenting Diane, I agree a very interesting book.

  3. Lins as I said on Twitter, a thoughtful and considerate review. Always enjoy reading what you have to say on the books that you read.

    Glad you were inspired too :)

    Thank you for taking part in Sarah's tour.

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment Shaz, I appreciate it a lot! Thanks for having me on the tour. x

  4. Fantastic book. Definitely on my reading list. I am a nurse practitioner and most of my patients are 60 and over as they are getting ready to undergo joint replacements. These women have so much knowledge and experience. I always learn something from them daily.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Yes I learned a lot from this.

  5. Not a format I generally enjoy but there is the exception to every rule and I think this may be it as this does sound like a read I'd enjoy.

    1. Thanks for commenting Tracy. I'm similar in not reading that much in this vein but this was very interesting and inspiring.

  6. I entered a competition for this today somewhere, it sounds really good!


  7. I have to get a copy of this! I’m in the relevant age group and would love to see if my thoughts coincide with the women taking part. Thanks for telling us about.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)