I follow Kate Mosse on social media, so have seen a lot of what she's posted about researching this book, so when I saw it was available for review, I knew it was one I wanted to do. In the introduction, she suggests that it's more of a coffee table book to read in short spurts, rather than one to read all in one go. For reasons of time, I ended up reading it as a whole book, but I think it's definitely one to read in sections and digest. I found I had to be very disciplined about not going down the Wikipedia/Google wormhole to investigate more and more of the highlighted women. Of course, that's not to say I didn't do 'some' extra reading, but I tried not to get diverted beyond the initial inquiry. When I inevitably return to this book, it will be with the idea of using it as a starting point from which to investigate more of these women.
Given the amount of books I've read recently about 'lost women' I'd expected to be familiar with more of the names in the book, so it was a very pleasant surprise to discover I'd only heard of about 10% of them. I also liked the way that the story of Lily was threaded through each section - it worked well as a way of grounding each theme and bringing it back to the personal details. The other thing that Mosse is keen to stress is that we can't romanticise these women. When she writes about Lily, she doesn't shy away from the character traits that today could be seen as flaws and she makes the very important point that we can't ignore the aspects of people's personalities that we are personally uncomfortable with. Nor should those flaws detract from their achievements. Rather, they make the woman human - a product of her time to a greater or lesser degree.
There are so many women who were left out of this - it wouldn't be possible to give room to them all in one book - but I liked the fact that those who were included were from a range of backgrounds, races, ethnicities and countries and spanned a wide variety of fields of interest. Too often, books like this focus only on Western civilisations. This one does not make that mistake and it is better for it.
This is a book for anyone who is interested in the forgotten (female) voices of history. I loved it and it's definitely one I will return to.