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Extended Audio Sample A Short History of Women Audiobook, by Kate Walbert Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,820 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kate Walbert Narrator: Nicola Barber, Ruth Moore, Kathleen McInerney, Eliza Foss Publisher: Highbridge Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2010 ISBN: 9781615730971
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A portrayal of the legacies of four generations of mothers and daughters, from a lecture delivered to suffragettes in Victorian England to a playdate on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Hear about these women's aspirations, the limits imposed on them, and the Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The prose is vivid and sympathetic, the characters believable.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “Ambitious…Wickedly funny.”

    Seattle Times

  • “It’s gripping, intense, and powerful. Walbert’s language is elegant, her images resonant. Characters are recognizable but not clichéd and will stay with readers as wise, if also flawed and struggling, exemplars of political and intellectual engagement.”

    Library Journal

  • “Walbert’s look at the twentieth century and the Townsend family is perfectly calibrated, intricately structured, and gripping from page one.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Ambitious and impressive…Reminiscent of a host of innovative writers from Virginia Woolf to Muriel Spark to Pat Barker…A witty and assured testament to the women’s movement and women writers, obscure and renowned.”

    Washington Post

  • “Daring and devastating: 20th-century history made personal.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Wickedly smart…A gorgeously wrought and ultimately wrenching work of art.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2009 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • A 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Barbara | 2/17/2014

    " A novel featuring generations of women beginning with a suffragist starving herself to death in England. The writing is good but the structure jumpy and the women's names so similar that I had to repeatedly refer to the genealogical table at the beginning of the book to keep the characters and times straight. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Deb Christenson | 2/17/2014

    " Walbert's history is thin but her characters are interesting and the narrative of generations of women in one family devoted to suffrage and women's rights is rich. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mary | 2/16/2014

    " Initially, this book reminded me of every book I only read because it was assigned for school. Like medicine - good for you, but unpleasant. By the end, though, I liked it more and found a couple of characters sympathetic. It is a short book, but the history of women covers 5 generations, beginning with the original Dorothy, an educated - but not degreed - widowed, mother of a 13-year old daughter, Evelyn, and 10-year old son, James, who kills herself by hunger strike over the status (or lack thereof) of women. Or, perhaps she stops eating because she is depressed: unhappy with her own life, her son's clubfoot, life with her self-absorbed mother. Each of the subsequent generations of children are inescapably affected by Dorothy's decision to die, and equally unhappy with their lives. Evelyn and James, abandoned by their grandmother are separated: Evelyn sent north to a small boarding school during the war, and James sent to live with a family in California. Evelyn, one of the few fulfilled characters in the novel ultimately becomes a chemistry professor, living in Morningside Heights with a man who has lost his own wife and child. Since Evelyn never marries or has children, the generations continue through James's daughter, Dorothy, married to a survivor of a Pacific theater WWII POW camp, Charles. Dorothy and Charles have two daughters, Caroline and Liz, and have lost one son, James, to cancer. Caroline - a Yale educated lawyer - has no children, but Liz - an artist - has several including Suzanne, and a younger set of twins. The book is narrated in third person, but through the viewpoints of the characters, and in changing writing styles, so that the chapters about the more recent events even take the form of blog entries and a social networking page. I almost didn't get there though, because the initial chapters are so grammatically garbled and lacking in guiding punctuation (didn't the English use commas before WWI?), with no plot or compelling characterization, that they seem not worth the trouble of reading. This is a discussion-worthy book for those who stick with it and get to the end. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sarah | 2/12/2014

    " One of the worst books I've ever read. What spineless men and what depressed women. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sunny | 1/29/2014

    " A terrific read. The writing is tight with nothing wasted. Kate Walbert writes of the gene pool appearing and reappearing in different generations of these remarkable and yet extraordinarly ordinary women. The reader must make use of the handy family tree illustration at the beginning of the book, but after a while it makes sense because just like in real life, we must go back to see who, what, and where we come from to make sense of where we are today. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mimi | 1/19/2014

    " Despite glowing reviews, I found this difficult to read. The narrative pauses a fair amount for references that are intellectually over my head. I got the general drift: women are perennially unfulfilled. The end. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marguerite | 1/16/2014

    " Right up my alley, but these stories of different generations of women never came together for me. But, even the author struck me as detached. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeff | 1/10/2014

    " Enjoyed this. Evocative stuff. It triggered an incredibly memorable dream about an important woman in my life, so it's important to me. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Maria Hernandez | 1/4/2014

    " Hoping my bookclub gals will shed some light on this one for me, I was disappointed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stacia | 12/12/2013

    " The fact that every other woman down the family tree had the same name made it a bit hard to keep everyone straight. Additionally, the book jumps around in time from woman to woman. Still, a lot of interesting character development. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janet | 12/10/2013

    " ok,but not great "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Edan | 9/26/2013

    " Still gathering my thoughts on this one... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Linda Lakshminaryanan | 9/26/2012

    " I just could not get motivated to finish this. It may be great but it wasn't catching me so I quit. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andy | 8/2/2012

    " It took me a while to get into this, though I started to like it more as I got nearer the end. I wasn't in love with the structure and the characters often jumbled in my mind. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 MamaDoodle | 11/10/2011

    " I saw great reviews for this so figured it must get better if I kept reading. It didn't. Thinking I may have missed the point. Brief glimpses at women from 5 generations of the same family. None of the characters fully developed. Two stars only because the writing was lovely. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Marisa | 10/24/2011

    " I have tried and tried to read this book and I just can't get into it. Same/similar names for different women of different generations has me stuck. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Maura | 8/2/2011

    " This had potential but I was really disappointed. The summary on the back of the book is better than what is inside. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sattie | 5/28/2011

    " I got most of the way through this book and abandoned it. Boring. Yawn. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracy | 5/23/2011

    " Feelings. This is a book about feelings. The feelings are beautifully expressed by the characters' lives and the tone, structure and author's quality of writing.

    This is both an endorsement and a warning.
    "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Dena | 5/18/2011

    " This book sucked. It did not keep my interest. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Seruh | 4/27/2011

    " My favorite character was Evelyn Charlotte Townsend, though I also enjoyed the brief sections from Caroline Townsend Barrett Deel and her daughter Dora. This was a pretty good read, though at times it got so caught up in emotional and sociological narrative that the effect was dampened. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Rachel | 4/25/2011

    " This book was so bad my entire book club couldn't finish it and we ended up cancelling our meeting -- that has never happened before! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carolyn | 4/15/2011

    " The fragmented lives of five generations of women through whom the echoes of the first's willful starvation reverberate from 1898-2007. Each, buffeted by her era, struggles for meaning, self-expression, and love. A slim but challenging non-linear novel. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Joanne | 3/19/2011

    " Distracted by the supposedly-different voices of female characters who all have the same problem with using too many subordinate clauses. Find myself searching for the end of the sentence rather than reading for content. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Megan | 3/6/2011

    " I got 60 pages into this book and had to stop. I don't mind character driven books, but there was only one conversation between characters in the first 60 pages. Ugghh... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Laura | 3/2/2011

    " A family tree of women's stories, most of whom had depressing lives. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Suzanne | 2/14/2011

    " Started off strong and I wanted to like this more than I did. Nice spare language, great concept (each chapter is a different woman in this family's family tree). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kb | 2/12/2011

    " Other than needing a Venn diagram and Visio flow-chart to keep up with all of the characters and the almost maniacal flipping back and forth between centuries, this book was outstanding. Good book for a book club setting. "

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About the Author
Kate Walbert is the author of the novels A Short History of Women, named a top ten best book by The New York Times Book Review and finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Our Kind, nominated for the National Book Award; and The Gardens of Kyoto, winner of the Connecticut Book Award. Walbert’s stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and the O. Henry Awards, and have twice been included in The Best American Short Stories.
About the Narrators

Nicola Barber, a British voice actress with over a decade of experience, has won four Earphone Awards for narration from AudioFile Magazine and has recorded national radio spots for Verizon Wireless, Virgin Airlines, and Hilton Hotels, as well as national TV commercials. She specializes in commercials, corporate videos, audiobooks, phone systems, and training videos. She has narrated over a dozen books for authors such as Barbara Taylor Bradford and Maureen Johnson.

Kathleen McInerney won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration in 2011 and was a finalist for the Audie in 2010 and 2015. Her narrations have also earned several AudioFile Earphones Awards. She has performed in New York and around the United States in both classical and contemporary theater. Her credits also include television commercials, daytime drama, radio plays, and animation voice-over.

Eliza Foss is an actress who has appeared in numerous theaters in New York City and around the country. She has narrated over thirty books and short stories, been featured in AudioFile magazine, and won five AudioFile Earphones Awards for her narrations.