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Conundrum (New York Review Books Classics)

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This remarkable memoir is the classic account of the transgender journey. It is all the more extraordinary because it is the life story of a figure who, it seemed, seamlessly, and publicly charted a course through the English establishment – James Morris, outstanding journalist, historian and travel writer, famed for a peerless writing style. But all the while he was conce This remarkable memoir is the classic account of the transgender journey. It is all the more extraordinary because it is the life story of a figure who, it seemed, seamlessly, and publicly charted a course through the English establishment – James Morris, outstanding journalist, historian and travel writer, famed for a peerless writing style. But all the while he was concealing a very different inner world: from the age of four he felt that, despite his body, he was really a girl. Determined to be true to an undeniable inner impulse, James Morris, in his 40s, became Jan Morris. It was the 1970s, a time and culture far from our 21st century where such matters have now become commonplace. What was it that impelled him to take such a frightening and irrevocable step? He faced the mental and physical challenges – the operation had to be done in Morocco and, as a well-known figure, attention from the world media could not be avoided. What pressures would that put on the family – a loving wife and growing children living in a North Wales village? But that inner impulse could not be denied. Jan Morris tells the story in a clear and honest manner, without a trace of sentimentality or sensationalism. She recounts the emotional, physical, sexual and social issues that abound on such a journey in detail, and through this highly personal memoir presents a memorable insight into the ‘conundrum’. Modest by nature, it is only by implication that one becomes aware of the immense courage and integrity needed to see the transition through. This is a deeply moving, beautifully written, unforgettable memoir. Sensational – yes in a quiet way. Revealing – yes, no punches are pulled. But, in the end, it is humane and uplifting.


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This remarkable memoir is the classic account of the transgender journey. It is all the more extraordinary because it is the life story of a figure who, it seemed, seamlessly, and publicly charted a course through the English establishment – James Morris, outstanding journalist, historian and travel writer, famed for a peerless writing style. But all the while he was conce This remarkable memoir is the classic account of the transgender journey. It is all the more extraordinary because it is the life story of a figure who, it seemed, seamlessly, and publicly charted a course through the English establishment – James Morris, outstanding journalist, historian and travel writer, famed for a peerless writing style. But all the while he was concealing a very different inner world: from the age of four he felt that, despite his body, he was really a girl. Determined to be true to an undeniable inner impulse, James Morris, in his 40s, became Jan Morris. It was the 1970s, a time and culture far from our 21st century where such matters have now become commonplace. What was it that impelled him to take such a frightening and irrevocable step? He faced the mental and physical challenges – the operation had to be done in Morocco and, as a well-known figure, attention from the world media could not be avoided. What pressures would that put on the family – a loving wife and growing children living in a North Wales village? But that inner impulse could not be denied. Jan Morris tells the story in a clear and honest manner, without a trace of sentimentality or sensationalism. She recounts the emotional, physical, sexual and social issues that abound on such a journey in detail, and through this highly personal memoir presents a memorable insight into the ‘conundrum’. Modest by nature, it is only by implication that one becomes aware of the immense courage and integrity needed to see the transition through. This is a deeply moving, beautifully written, unforgettable memoir. Sensational – yes in a quiet way. Revealing – yes, no punches are pulled. But, in the end, it is humane and uplifting.

30 review for Conundrum (New York Review Books Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Red🏳️‍⚧️

    Understanding my identity as a transwoman came about for me in the late 2000's, and thus most of what I read and learned from was on the internet and not set down in ink and binding. Of the trans memoirs I've held in my hands, this ties with Jamison Green's Becoming a Visible Man as my favorite. Whereas Mr. Green's is a more political, academic and recent work, and is imminently more suited as inspiration and fodder for the kinds of public speaking work I've been fortunate to engage in, it is al Understanding my identity as a transwoman came about for me in the late 2000's, and thus most of what I read and learned from was on the internet and not set down in ink and binding. Of the trans memoirs I've held in my hands, this ties with Jamison Green's Becoming a Visible Man as my favorite. Whereas Mr. Green's is a more political, academic and recent work, and is imminently more suited as inspiration and fodder for the kinds of public speaking work I've been fortunate to engage in, it is also a work that betters helps me understand who I am now, as opposed to who I was for those first 20-or-so years. Who I was for my first 20-or-so years was frightened, confused. I had no terminology, no ability to use rationality to heal myself, no notion of the trans movement or even the belief that anyone existed with my affliction other than poor me. I would not meet a person who self-identified as trans, or even hear the word "transgender," until I was in college. So in those bright brief moments where I was not hating myself and permitted my mind to envision my desires, what did I see? I saw a beautiful red-haired woman who held me from behind, eyes closed, her chin on my shoulder. She would tell me that it was okay, that she and I would meet one day. Sometimes, she had wings. Author Jan Morris, transitioning as she did in the 60's and 70's, did not have the internet, or books, or movement. She had instead her mind, her desire, and a psycho-spiritual flare for processing the universe that was her omnipresent guide. It is her very lovely brain that means oh so much to me. Because I will never be that person who did not know the word "trans" again. I will never be that scared girl who stayed alive because of the images and visions her brain gave her to keep her going. To make her believe in...in anything, anything at all. Anything that wasn't you were born, you will die, and always in between shall remain unfulfilled. This book is wise and insightful, filled with words by an old soul, and is a valuable text because it isn't born out of our current debates between whether trans is real or not, whether a minority's rights are worth affirming or not, whether we should call ourselves this word or that word. While there are older stories of gender variance than this, this for me is my ur-trans narrative. A pre-everything story that is as different from our trans discussion now as a shaman's tale over bonfire is from a vlog. It is an important chapter in a history that has too few entries and long-form memoirists whose works were put down before the 80's. Do give this beautiful work the time of day. It is short, as filling as a big dinner, and as warm as a cuddle. P.S. My undying thanks to Wilton Barnhardt for referring me to this work many years ago. I needed it, then as now. P.P.S. Kim Fu's recent fiction work, For Today I Am a Boy, is likewise recommended if you enjoy trans-related books in this vein. And if you enjoyed this or Mr. Green's book, I would also recommend you check out Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The book as a whole is primarily of interest for historical reasons, and the second half is largely a desperate attempt to reassure a patriarchal society that her transition was no threat to it. That's an understandable response to the pressures Ms. Morris must have been under in her time and place, but her description of her life post-transition is by turns tedious and excruciating to read now, and it was poorly timed in its day — cisgender feminists spent the rest of the seventies quoting Ms. The book as a whole is primarily of interest for historical reasons, and the second half is largely a desperate attempt to reassure a patriarchal society that her transition was no threat to it. That's an understandable response to the pressures Ms. Morris must have been under in her time and place, but her description of her life post-transition is by turns tedious and excruciating to read now, and it was poorly timed in its day — cisgender feminists spent the rest of the seventies quoting Ms. Morris's autobiography any time they needed to bludgeon trans women for existing, and the image of trans women as inherently reactionary and anti-feminist lives on long after the people who chose Ms. Morris as representative of every trans woman have died or faded from relevance. Having said that, this book is a fascinating landmark in trans literature, the first modern entry in the (now overstuffed and cliche) genre of trans autobiography. And it's easy to see why Ms. Morris has had such a successful career as a travel writer: every setting in the book is described in such loving detail that it's easy to slip into seeing the world around her exactly as she saw it. I came for the historical interest, but this book made me want to read more of her prose on its own merits — though I might prefer a book whose gender politics are less painfully dated.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I had to read this book for my Gay and Lesbian English Class, and it isn't a book that I would have naturally picked up. However I really was taken aback how much I enjoyed reading about the transition the writer made from James to Jane. How it felt to be a man in Wales for 45 years and the to appear back in same village that narrator grew up and was suddenly a woman. I was very much fascinated with the parallels between being a man in society, and that of being a woman in society. It really is I had to read this book for my Gay and Lesbian English Class, and it isn't a book that I would have naturally picked up. However I really was taken aback how much I enjoyed reading about the transition the writer made from James to Jane. How it felt to be a man in Wales for 45 years and the to appear back in same village that narrator grew up and was suddenly a woman. I was very much fascinated with the parallels between being a man in society, and that of being a woman in society. It really is a sweet story, and a very easy read. Manny I think you would enjoy this book you should put it on your pile to read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    James Hartley

    Second reading and just as impressive, if not more so, the second time. Very relevant, too, in these times of debates on gender and sexuality. Jan Morris, born James, knew she was a female trapped in a man´s body from the age of three. It took her half a life to make the physical change and this book is about that process. It is fascinating to read so talented a writer on such a fascinating subject: Jan has lived as both a man and a woman and here she describes how that feels, the differences wi Second reading and just as impressive, if not more so, the second time. Very relevant, too, in these times of debates on gender and sexuality. Jan Morris, born James, knew she was a female trapped in a man´s body from the age of three. It took her half a life to make the physical change and this book is about that process. It is fascinating to read so talented a writer on such a fascinating subject: Jan has lived as both a man and a woman and here she describes how that feels, the differences within and without. A fascinating, valuable, impressive, honest book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Perkimom

    I found this a tedious read, more about the author's travels than in-depth thoughts and feelings about the issue of her transgender issues and life. I was expecting to be more educated and I wasn't even really entertained. Brave soul but not my favorite book by any means. I found this a tedious read, more about the author's travels than in-depth thoughts and feelings about the issue of her transgender issues and life. I was expecting to be more educated and I wasn't even really entertained. Brave soul but not my favorite book by any means.

  6. 5 out of 5

    sevdah

    Jan Morris is a very good writer and we're just lucky she decided to also write about her transition as a transgender woman. It's a deeply personal memoir of someone who ultimately fought for her right to be happy as herself, and carry on loving life on her own terms. Especially interesting here were the pages describing how people's attitudes changed with her gender - how she was thought to be a good professional when passing as a male, and then (in her 40s) started being a slightly silly "good Jan Morris is a very good writer and we're just lucky she decided to also write about her transition as a transgender woman. It's a deeply personal memoir of someone who ultimately fought for her right to be happy as herself, and carry on loving life on her own terms. Especially interesting here were the pages describing how people's attitudes changed with her gender - how she was thought to be a good professional when passing as a male, and then (in her 40s) started being a slightly silly "good girl". (Her own ideas about what she could or could not be were deeply influenced by that, of course, and let's not forget the book was written more than 40 years ago; for example she mentioned how she never pursued a career in politics because it seemed too "manly", or stated that women can't really feel the satisfaction of climbing Everest.) It's a good book with a fair few pages on travelling and adventure, but mostly it's about people interested in gender and identity.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I stumbled across this 1974 memoir when I was researching new travel writers to read. (The state of the world is so depressing these days that I am focusing less on negative, heavy nonfiction & more on lighter, soothing nonfiction like travel & humor). When the article mentioned in passing that Jan Morris had formerly been the journalist James Morris but had transitioned in 1972, I was intrigued. 1972?! After checking the memoir out from the library, I perused the Goodreads reviews briefly. I don I stumbled across this 1974 memoir when I was researching new travel writers to read. (The state of the world is so depressing these days that I am focusing less on negative, heavy nonfiction & more on lighter, soothing nonfiction like travel & humor). When the article mentioned in passing that Jan Morris had formerly been the journalist James Morris but had transitioned in 1972, I was intrigued. 1972?! After checking the memoir out from the library, I perused the Goodreads reviews briefly. I don't like spoilers but am always keen to learn how a book is generally received. There are very few 1 & 2 star reviews and all stated their concern about how sexist, classist & racist Morris is and how the memoir was not how a trans writer "should" write about their experience. Insert enormous eyeroll here. Morris is 93 years old! She was raised in an upper class, conservative traditional British manner complete with exclusive public schools, Oxford, being an officer in the military and being a member in traditional London gentleman's clubs. It would be shocking if her memoir did not display the commonly accepted views of her generation. This dichotomy between her lifestyle and her decision to transition into a woman is what I found most interesting in the first place. In the forward to this edition, Morris explains that obviously her views have developed and grown over the years but that at the time this memoir was published - 45 years ago - this was how she perceived things. Her proclamations about the sexes, the races, the different classes in Britain can be wincingly obtuse. What is really specific to a culture, she deems true for all. She doesn't grasp that what are, to her, the innate qualities of men & women, are in fact very peculiar to her location and era. It certainly makes for interesting reading. Morris tried to explain to the reader why she felt the need to change. She said she needed to somehow reconcile her soul with her body. Her analogy of a car's fuel indicator to the difference between sex & gender was helpful to me. Not a perfect analogy but an easy visual. The gauge marking from full to empty is like the scale between the masculine and feminine genders. The pointer represents your physical sex - body parts, hormones & chromosomes. The printed scale cannot be moved but the pointer does move. Since she is unable to change her gender, the way her soul feels, then the only recourse is to try & change the pointer/the physical characteristics as much as possible so that her gender and her form align. To make herself whole. I liked how she stressed that the need, the pressure, the absolute compulsion to live as a woman, her true self, was not predicated on some sexual desire. She wrote how most men could not conceive of this need to be a woman as not being sexual and kept insisting it must be sexual. They wanted to know about what her genitals looked like, who she was having sex with, how exactly she was having sex etc. Morris stresses repeatedly that she had a very low sex drive and it wasn't a sexual desire at all. Several psychiatrists she visits insist she is actually a transvestite or gay in order to make sense of her need. How frustrating that must have been. Her transformation is a part of the memoir but definitely only a part, not a huge focus. I am gobsmacked that some reviewers were irritated that she wrote about her whole life, rather than a narrow focus on her gender. Life is more than our gender!!! Morris had such an interesting life. Why should she not write about it? Why reduce herself only to her transgenderism? She climbed Mt Everest. Hung out with Che Guevara in Cuba. Got drunk with Guy Burgess in Moscow after he defected. Attended Eichmann's trial in Israel. Fought in WWII. Attended Powers trial in the Soviet Union. Covered multiple revolutions and rebellions in Africa. Floated in a boat through Venice's Grand Canal in the middle of the night right after the war, when the city was silent & empty. To reduce her life to one thing would be wrong.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    Dull, too much travel writing for me. Very dated in its discussions of women roles in society, and intriguingly but disappointingly something which Jan seems accepting of. Valuable from historical perspective.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I knew Jan Morris was trans; what I did not know, until a lovely friend of mine lent me this book, was that she'd written about that experience. But this is indeed a memoir about her trans journey, and her life around that, and what it meant to her as a child of the 1930s and 40s. And it's really lovely. Morris' prose always has this...I want to say delicate quality, but it's more robust than that. She doesn't mince words and she's not over effusive or purple. She is, however, very evocative. Tha I knew Jan Morris was trans; what I did not know, until a lovely friend of mine lent me this book, was that she'd written about that experience. But this is indeed a memoir about her trans journey, and her life around that, and what it meant to her as a child of the 1930s and 40s. And it's really lovely. Morris' prose always has this...I want to say delicate quality, but it's more robust than that. She doesn't mince words and she's not over effusive or purple. She is, however, very evocative. That stands her in good stead to talk about such a huge and shifting thing as gender and sex. It's not simple, and Morris doesn't let you think that it is. But she doesn't over-complicate either. It's exactly as simple and confusing as taking a breath. It's a lovely book, and all Morris' brains and heart and life seemed to be shining out of it as I read it. Thoroughly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    An amazing book, which I first read in 1974, when it was published to a surprised world, and then again four years later, as this paperback. It deserves a review, but this is a temporary note as Jan Morris has just died today, 20.11.20, aged 94. RIP Jan Morris.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Woods

    An extraordinary memoir. Beautifully written. Insightful, engaging, and, I was pleased to discover, not prurient or sensational. I hope to become a better and more educated ally, and this book gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation of the trans journey.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hilary G

    Ex Bookworm group review: Yesterday, I watched a documentary about Freddie Mercury, and it struck me how some people’s lives are so much more extraordinary than the lives of most of us. Such people do more, see more, say more, they make news, they are capable of influencing people in their thousands. This, I thought, is what makes celebrities (though, as a society, I think we have lost the plot about who is and is not a celebrity) so exciting that others want to know every detail of their lives. Ex Bookworm group review: Yesterday, I watched a documentary about Freddie Mercury, and it struck me how some people’s lives are so much more extraordinary than the lives of most of us. Such people do more, see more, say more, they make news, they are capable of influencing people in their thousands. This, I thought, is what makes celebrities (though, as a society, I think we have lost the plot about who is and is not a celebrity) so exciting that others want to know every detail of their lives. Their lives are interesting, whereas ours may be more humdrum and ordinary. Yet there are other people, not widely known as celebrities, who have lived extraordinary lives that we would never know about unless they themselves choose to tell us. Jan Morris is such a person, unless she is, in fact, very famous, and you have all heard of her. I heard of her by chance, listening to the radio on a day and at a time I don’t normally listen to the radio. I can’t even remember what was said, not very much, but the book was mentioned and I decided to follow it up. By the time I remembered, I could not remember the name of the book, but I remembered enough to find it, and it sounded interesting enough for us to read here. It was a short book (thank goodness) but I found it packed with interest, and I hope you did too. Even as a (mere) man, Morris had a life that was full of excitement, travelling all over the world at a time when this was only common for soldiers, civil servants and the idle rich. Morris the man was a soldier and subsequently a journalist and travel writer, and was the Times Special Correspondent accompanying the team led by Sir Edmund Hillary in the successful conquest of Everest in 1953. Morris the man married and fathered 5 children. Yet, despite all this apparent proof of his masculinity, Morris felt always that he should have been a woman and took all the necessary steps, including surgery, to become one. Conundrum is the history of this journey. I can’t pretend to understand transexualism (which is defined in Wikipedia simply as “a condition in which a person identifies with a physical sex different from the one with which they were born,”) but Conundrum leaves me in no doubt that it is a real issue. Morris was fortunate to be able to solve the conunundrum at a time when there was much less understanding of the issues than there is now and far fewer sources of help, but even for her, it is a harrowing journey, involving going to Casablanca for surgery in a clinic with its floors that were “less than scrupulously clean” and without hot water in the hand basins. Given details like this, how can one doubt that this was an imperative and not a whim? Morris is a very well educated and widely-read person and, as such, her writing can make you feel inferior at times, which is irritating. “I agree with Goethe,” she says at the end of one chapter. “Well, bully for you!” say I. Yet, I mostly delighted in the fine writing. I could immediately picture “a retired brigadeer of lascivious tendencies and his empoodled wife,” and surely only a writer could describe the satisfaction derived from a sex change operation as being “like a sentence which, defying its own subordinate clauses, reaches a classical confusion in the end”. I loved the story about warthogs being beautiful to each other (there is hope for us all). As well as being a journalist and travel writer, Morris is also a historian, and in many respects this book is a piece of history. Although the book was not written until 1974, she was already writing about a time that had passed into history and attitudes that would soon be consigned to the scrapheap. I smiled at her statement that she “would not want to be ruled by Africans” and wondered what she makes of Barack Obama (how amazing that only 7 years after 9/11, many Americans are seriously contemplating electing someone with the middle name of Hussein, how fast history rolls on). Social attitudes are not inherent, but learnt and Morris had to learn them at the age of 46. It is a pity though that she accepted attitudes to women with such equanimity, even claiming them to be advantageous. Even though that irked me a bit (surely she was too intelligent to accept not having her opinions listened to and being treated as an inferior?) I had to smile at one of them: “I did not particularly want to be good at reversing cars…” and will remember it next time anyone mentions women drivers and parking. The book was an extraordinarily personal account of something many people might choose not to write (or read?) about, but its unrelentingly narrow point of view (Morris’s) left many unanswered questions in my mind. Did Elizabeth really not mind the father of her children becoming a woman? Did those children really adapt so easily to their dad becoming a second mum? I seem to have written quite a lot about a very small book, but to me that is the sign of a good book. I enjoyed the writing (with the exception of the Goethe-was-my-best-friend bits), I learnt a lot and I was left wanting to know more.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elysia

    Beautifully written story of the journey of a male to female transsexual as they come to terms with their discomfort of being in the wrong body, and the long but rewarding process of becoming a woman. The writing style is so pretty. Only complaint is that some phrases came across as a bit pretentious. Morris' views on the role of gender were also quite outdated. She professed that she lost the ability to do simple tasks as a woman and enjoyed having everything done for her, that made me a bit an Beautifully written story of the journey of a male to female transsexual as they come to terms with their discomfort of being in the wrong body, and the long but rewarding process of becoming a woman. The writing style is so pretty. Only complaint is that some phrases came across as a bit pretentious. Morris' views on the role of gender were also quite outdated. She professed that she lost the ability to do simple tasks as a woman and enjoyed having everything done for her, that made me a bit annoyed BUT it was originally published in 1974 so I cant be too mad. Overall a must read for anyone interested in what goes inside the brain of somebody born in a body of the wrong gender.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia

    This book is an important one, Jan Morris was one of the first British public figures to undergo Gender Affirmation Surgery back in the 70s - and this book depicts a sensitive and engaging account of her experiences. She lived a rich and fulfilling life, passing away at the age of 94, and whilst I found some of terminology and societal ideas in this book quite difficult because of when it was written, it was a worthwhile read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    3.5/5 It had occurred to me that perhaps mine was a perfectly normal condition, and that every boy wished to become a girl. It seemed a logical enough aspiration, if Woman was so elevated and admirable a being as history, religion, and good manners combined to assure us. In the United States, there was a ruling within the past year that allowed trans people to join the military. This dubious success characterizes this book completely: those who are transgender are welcomed with open arms so lo 3.5/5 It had occurred to me that perhaps mine was a perfectly normal condition, and that every boy wished to become a girl. It seemed a logical enough aspiration, if Woman was so elevated and admirable a being as history, religion, and good manners combined to assure us. In the United States, there was a ruling within the past year that allowed trans people to join the military. This dubious success characterizes this book completely: those who are transgender are welcomed with open arms so long as they not only conform as much as possible to the white/well off/nonthreatening species of non-cis, but enforce the eradication of all those brown and/or insane and/or gender annihilating types who may fall under the purview of trans but do not fit within the military industrial complex. This is not to say that Jan Morris does not succeed beautifully on an individual level when it comes to her journey through the life of her self, but that her story could have done well enough sticking to her own sensibilities rather than passing judgment on others. It explains why there are a number of quotes that are wonderfully conducive to the rights of trans people of every intersecting demographic, and yet within the context of the work's entirety are constrained to a very specific type with which Morris attempts to win the public over via self-neutralization. As such, when she speaks of finding solidarity with others at a surgical clinic in Casablanca, it is unfortunate that I can probably make a very accurate guess as to the skin color and cultural norms of the majority of those empathized with. Let's get one thing straight: this is a gorgeous piece of writing, both for how much complexity and depth it can pack into less than 200 pages as well as its prose and more macro textual constructions. That's not the issue here. What is is how many people defend their right to engage with everything on the most uncritical, and thus the most calcified and bigotry-reinforcing, perspective possible, and how that interacts with those who represent the "good" parts of a regularly maligned community. Let's say Caitlyn Jenner, a more modern example than Jan Morris, also wrote a memoir of her life, focusing on the trans aspect of her identity. First you get the people who want her dead, a judgment highly encouraged in a country where 99% of its constituents legalize the civilian execution of trans people via the trans panic defense. Then, you get the wafflers who will go with whichever flow will give them the most economic security. Finally, you get those so obsessed with pat themeselves on the back for a higher morality that they'll praise the work to the skies without questioning the other aspects that go into a trans identity such as religion, ethnicity, and socioeconomic stability. I don't mention those in true solidarity because they take up such a small percentage of the population. For example, the fact that trans people are conditioned to feel the need to "pass" is nothing but a bunch of aesthetic hogwash resulting from cis people valuing their comfort zones of socialized constructs over respecting others. When one considers the history of transphobia in the LGBTQIA movement up until the present day, there's little guarantee that the non-queer populace will be much better. So. Should you read this? Sure, if you critically engage with the colonial/ableist/dichotomous edifices rearing their heads amidst an otherwise admirably heartfelt engagement with the personal is the political is the personal. The equating of a European city to the entirety of an African continent doesn't help trans people in Uganda, or Morocco, or the Democratic Republic of Congo. If you want to argue that the past excused this sort of writing, you should have read the book and offered your static opinions in 1974 when it was first published, not drag the desiccated corpse of faux normalization into 2016. 2017's already shaping up into a bitter repeat of what many a liberal like to say died as the result of the Civil Rights Movement, or Stonewall, or World War II, so don't waste your energy defending icons. There are plenty of living and breathing people who don't fit into the boxes prescribed by this book who have earned your solidarity many times over. Let's work with them so that they may one day write their own books and complicate the accepted picture of trans accordingly, shall we? To me gender is not physical at all, but is altogether insubstantial. It is soul, perhaps, it is talent, it is taste, it is environment, it is how one feels, it is light and shade, it is inner music, it is a spring in one’s step or an exchange of glances, it is more truly life and love than any combination of genitals, ovaries, and hormones. It is the essentialness of oneself, the psyche, the fragment of unity.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bellish

    I had quite a few issues with this book, but a lot of those will have to be excused as it being "of its time". It can't be denied that the writing is beautiful, and it is a valuable memoir. I had quite a few issues with this book, but a lot of those will have to be excused as it being "of its time". It can't be denied that the writing is beautiful, and it is a valuable memoir.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Near the end of Conundrum, Jan Morris writes about walking through Casablanca on the eve of her sex change operation as feeling like she was about to pay “a visit to a wizard,” like she was “a figure of fairy tale, about to be transformed” (119). And, as in some fairy tales, what she is to be transformed into is only what she has been all along: she writes, at the start of the book, that her earliest memory, from when she was three or four, was the realization that she “had been born into the wr Near the end of Conundrum, Jan Morris writes about walking through Casablanca on the eve of her sex change operation as feeling like she was about to pay “a visit to a wizard,” like she was “a figure of fairy tale, about to be transformed” (119). And, as in some fairy tales, what she is to be transformed into is only what she has been all along: she writes, at the start of the book, that her earliest memory, from when she was three or four, was the realization that she “had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl” (3). This slim book is full of Morris’s experiences on her journey from male-bodied to female-bodied, from her childhood sense of differentness and her early sense of affinity with particular places and landscapes to her years, pre-transition, in the army and as a journalist, including her increasing sense of isolation due to the gulf between her inner self and the self the world sees. She writes about her sense of the wrongness of her male body, but also an appreciation of its energies and what it can do, e.g. on a 1953 journalistic assignment to join the British expedition climbing Everest. She writes about taking estrogen for years before her sex-change operation, and about how it was to travel in the resulting in-between body, reading as a man to some and as a woman to others. Morris is primarily known as a travel writer, and some of the loveliest bits of this book are the ones about landscapes or cities, like this description of the place where she grew up: The sky may not always have been as blue as I recall it, but it was certainly clear as crystal, the only smoke the smudge from a collier laboring up-Channel, or the blurred miasma of grime that always hung over the Swansea valleys. Hawks and skylarks abounded, rabbits were everywhere, weasels haunted the bracken, and sometimes there came trundling over the hill, heavily buzzing, the daily de Havilland biplane on its way to Cardiff (4). Or this, about Oxford: “a presence so old and true that it absorbs time and change like light into a prism, only enriching itself by the process, and finding nothing alien except intolerance” (8). Or this: London was in that heightened version of itself that one always discovers when one returns from abroad—the buses redder than usual, the taxi-drivers more Cockney, and everything more thickly infused with the pungency that is London’s own. Even the light that came through the consultancy window was more than reasonably London, much creamier than the Italian light, and charged with the dustflakes of W1. (44) (And those are just a few: there’s also a great long list-paragraph about the cathedral in Oxford during Morris’s time at the choir school there, and a beautiful description of the sensual pleasure of being in a small boat in the lagoon of Venice at night.) The edition of Conundrum I read is the 2002 reprint, which has a new introduction, which Morris wrote in 2001. In it she says the book “is already a period piece. It was written in the 1970s, and is decidedly of the 1970s” (ix). It does sometimes feel dated, particularly some of the gender-related bits, like one moment in the part about the Everest expedition in which Morris says she thinks women can’t have the “feeling of unfluctuating control” over their bodies that men can have: I suspect elite female athletes might disagree. And there’s a bunch of stuff at the end about how nice the courtesies afforded to women are, and how it isn’t so bad when you’re a woman at a restaurant with a man and the waiter assumes the man is the one who knows about/is choosing the wine, and anyway it’s nice to have doors opened for you and things done for you, right? But at the same time, Morris is very up-front about the fact that her conception of femininity as being tied to “gentleness” and “helping” and “give more than take” is her conception of it, not necessarily everyone’s.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Miguel

    A couple years ago I read one of the best travel books I know: Venice, by Jan Morris, who is considered one of the best British writers of today, with a body of work that emphasizes the travelogues, but that includes fiction, history , memories and non-fiction in general. Venice is a majestic book, which made me feel naturally curious about its author. At the time it was published in Portugal an article in a portuguese newspaper aroused my curiosity: I found out that Morris was a transsexual havi A couple years ago I read one of the best travel books I know: Venice, by Jan Morris, who is considered one of the best British writers of today, with a body of work that emphasizes the travelogues, but that includes fiction, history , memories and non-fiction in general. Venice is a majestic book, which made me feel naturally curious about its author. At the time it was published in Portugal an article in a portuguese newspaper aroused my curiosity: I found out that Morris was a transsexual having a sex change in the early 70s, and that part of her work, including Venice, has been published with her previous male name, James. It was still as James Morris that she participated participated, as correspondent for The Times, in the British expedition that first climbed the Everest. The interest in learning more about the author, and the precedent of the magnificent writing of Venice, brought me to Conundrum, a volume of memoirs dedicated to the half-life that Jan Morris lived with the conviction that her sex was wrong in relation to the gender she felt that she belonged to, and the process that led her to correct this error, culminating with a stay in a clinic in Casablanca. The book was first published in 1974, and this reissue just updated with a new preface by the author. The writing is excellent. Morris' english (Venice I had read in translation) is lush, with a rich vocabulary, the syntax sophisticated simplicity is almost musical. The book is organized into short chapters, in which the tone, although varying between memories more reflective and more factual account, it is always very stylish and fun, combining an english way of being affluent to a view of life from those who already knew its most secret and extravagant corners. Jan Morris's vision is somewhat dated, especially in how confined by gender stereotypes, and how these stereotypes inform her journey through the gender streaming. But it is important to remember that this book is forty years old, and since the time it was written, the way how gender overcame the most simplistic dichotomy male-female, is probably the greatest revolution of our time. Thus, it is not very reasonable to accuse Morris of a pre-revolutionary vision when, somehow, we have to thank her for having been, like many others, at the genesis of this revolution. Conundrum means enigma. The leitmotif of this admirable, deep, funny and intense book is not so much the search for an answer to the riddle, but rather the process of learning how to live with it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hillary

    "Psychologically I was distinctly less forceful. A neurotic condition common among women is penis envy, its victims supposing that there is inherent to the very fact of the male organs some potent energy of the spirit. There is something to this fancy. It is not merely the loss of androgens that has made me more retiring, more ready to be led, more passive: the removal of the organs themselves has contributed, for there was to the presence of the penis something positive, thrusting, and muscular "Psychologically I was distinctly less forceful. A neurotic condition common among women is penis envy, its victims supposing that there is inherent to the very fact of the male organs some potent energy of the spirit. There is something to this fancy. It is not merely the loss of androgens that has made me more retiring, more ready to be led, more passive: the removal of the organs themselves has contributed, for there was to the presence of the penis something positive, thrusting, and muscular. My body was then made to push and initiate, it is made now to yield and accept..." Whoa. The last third of this book is full of passages similar to the example above. I found it impossible to divorce the sexist attitude from what might have made the story worth reading. It came to my attention because it was referenced in Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism, and I almost wish I'd declined to investigate further. If this book stood as the only existing account of the experiences of a transgender woman, we would have a much more difficult time arguing with the so-called "radical feminists" who strive to discredit the transgender community.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    2.5 I read this book for my book club but had a pre-existing interest in better understanding transgenderism. I found Morris’ style generally pleasant, but for me, the book was tainted by her classism, racism, even sexism, and her seeming lack of self-awareness in these areas (or maybe she is self-aware and intentionally condescending). I enjoyed reading about Morris’ marriage/relationship with her partner Elizabeth, whom she was forced to divorce after having sex reassignment surgery but with wh 2.5 I read this book for my book club but had a pre-existing interest in better understanding transgenderism. I found Morris’ style generally pleasant, but for me, the book was tainted by her classism, racism, even sexism, and her seeming lack of self-awareness in these areas (or maybe she is self-aware and intentionally condescending). I enjoyed reading about Morris’ marriage/relationship with her partner Elizabeth, whom she was forced to divorce after having sex reassignment surgery but with whom she continued to live; I would have liked to have read more about Elizabeth and their relationship. I’m not sure that I’m leaving the book with a better grasp of transgenderism, especially in light of the end of the book in which Morris asks: “Would my conflict have been so bitter if I had been born now, when the gender line is so much less rigid? If society had allowed me to live in the gender I preferred, would I have bothered to change sex?” These questions aren’t explored in depth; I hope to do other reading where they are.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    A conundrum indeed. Early on Morris claims to "adhere to the belief ... that self analysis is often a mistake" yet the premise of this book pivots on self analysis. Alongside this Morris freely admits to bein selective in what included and what is not. The prose is precise and lyrical and seems to waft in from a bygone age. The author's expressions of how she perceives she is treated differently also seem somewhat dated. A conundrum indeed. Early on Morris claims to "adhere to the belief ... that self analysis is often a mistake" yet the premise of this book pivots on self analysis. Alongside this Morris freely admits to bein selective in what included and what is not. The prose is precise and lyrical and seems to waft in from a bygone age. The author's expressions of how she perceives she is treated differently also seem somewhat dated.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Sevitt

    Astonishing memoir from 1974. Ms Morris calmly and with candor presents the conundrum of her life growing up as James, becoming a chorister, joining the army, running up and down Everest as the official Times correspondent for Hillary’s ascent, marriage, fatherhood and transition. It’s a wonderful book in the true sense that it is filled with wonder. Morris is a delightful writer. This is a lovely book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Isaac R. Fellman

    Beautifully written, with some of the finest descriptions of dysphoria I’ve seen anywhere, but increasingly troubled in the second half by Morris’ racism and her shocking literary cruelty to other trans people.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gold Dust

    A poetically written trans memoir about a man named James who transitions to Jan. Unlike the majority of LGBT allies who just take a person’s word for being LGBT, I analyze and question! So let’s dive in! “Dutch scientists, after examining the autopsied brains of six trans-sexual men, discovered that in every case a particular region of the hypothalamus, at the floor of the brain, was abnormally small for a male, and in fact smaller than most females.” (2) So does this mean that transwomen are hype A poetically written trans memoir about a man named James who transitions to Jan. Unlike the majority of LGBT allies who just take a person’s word for being LGBT, I analyze and question! So let’s dive in! “Dutch scientists, after examining the autopsied brains of six trans-sexual men, discovered that in every case a particular region of the hypothalamus, at the floor of the brain, was abnormally small for a male, and in fact smaller than most females.” (2) So does this mean that transwomen are hyperfeminine, i.e., even more feminine than a normal woman? “Self-analysis is often a mistake, and leads one only down endless and unprofitable paths of speculation. I did not query my condition, or seek reasons for it.”(40) You should have! Self-analysis is the first step to wisdom! Know thyself! How can you claim to be a woman if you don’t even know who you are? His family was not strict in gender roles: “My mother had wished me to be a daughter, but I was never treated as one. It is true that gushing visitors sometimes assembled me into their fox furs and lavender sachets to murmur that, with curly hair like mine, I should have been born a girl.” (4) Such things could have had an influence to make him want to be a girl. 13 “In our family, as it happened, such distinctions were not recognized, and nobody would have dreamt of supposing that a taste for music, colors, or textiles was effeminate; but it is true that my own notion of the female principle was one of gentleness as against force, forgiveness rather than punishment, give more than take, helping more than leading. Oxford seemed to express the distinction in a way that Cardiff, say, or even London never could, and in responding so eagerly to her beauties I did feel myself succumbing to a specifically feminine influence. I still do, and from that day to this have habitually thought of Oxford as “she”.’ “As the youngest of three brothers, in a family very soon to be fatherless” (4) There’s a theory that when there are three boys born in a row, the third boy is likely to be homosexual. And having no father in james’ life could have made it so he was growing up with no male role models. Obsessed with being like the virgin mary—pure: 12 ‘A virginal ideal was fostered in me by my years at Christ Church, a sense of sacrament and fragility, and this I came slowly to identify as femaleness—“eternal womanhood,” which, as Goethe says in the last lines of Faust, “leads us above.”’ 13 “Man was for hard things, making money, fighting wars, keeping stiff upper lips, beating errant schoolboys, wearing boots and helmets, drinking beer; woman was for gentler, softer purposes, healing, soothing, painting pictures, wearing silks, singing, looking at colors, giving presents, accepting admiration.” 19 “the most beautiful of all the characters of the Christian story, I thought, far more perfect and mysterious than Christ himself, was the Virgin Mary, whose presence drifted so strangely and elegantly through the Gospels, an enigma herself.” 21 Woman was so elevated and admirable a being as history, religion, and good manners combined to assure us. 173: “the nearest humanity approaches to perfection is in the persons of good women—and especially perhaps in the persons of kind, intelligent, and healthy women of a certain age, no longer shackled by the mechanisms of sex but creative still in other kinds, aware still in their love and sensuality, graceful in experience, past ambition but never beyond aspiration. In all countries, among all races, on the whole these are the people I most admire.” Admires and glorifies women: 91 “women were to be found doing real things.” (Interesting he has this opinion since many would argue that it is men who do real things that women who do unimportant things.) 91 he thinks men are so terrible that they could hardly be called human! 93 the world of men disgusts him: “there was no true dignity in the world of affairs, no thoroughbred integrity, no pity either. It was all rotten. It was all lies.” 141: Women are “deliciously clean.” 150 “People are usually far kinder to women.” 151: “Her frailty is her strength, her inferiority is her privilege.” 166: “it still seems to me only common sense to wish to be a woman rather than a man—or if not common sense, at least good taste.” But wish is not reality. Feminine qualities: poetic, blushing, detests sports (16), low sex drive (53), likes feminine clothing (118, 155). Masculine qualities: likes being a soldier (28), likes tanks (28), “The news from Everest was to be mine, and anyone who tried to steal it from me should look out for trouble” (80), likes fire, dislikes modesty and restraint (68). So it appears that he is just as feminine as he is masculine. Maybe more masculine even! There’s another theory that LGBT is caused by childhood sexual abuse. While I haven’t found this to be the case in every trans memoir I’ve read (of course authors are capable of omitting things they don’t want the public to know about), there was something that came close to that in James’ childhood: the matron at oxford took off her dress in front of him and asked him to feel her back (15). “I still hardly knew the difference between the sexes anyway, having seldom if ever seen a female body in the nude, and I prayed without reason, purely out of instinct.” (20) So he wants to be a female without actually knowing what a female is. A female is a body born with a vagina. What he wants is the social female, the feminine gender, which is completely different. He soon admits this is true on p. 25: “Male and female are sex, masculine and feminine are gender, and though the conceptions obviously overlap, they are far from synonymous.” But throughout the rest of the book continues to confuse the two. “Nobody in the history of humankind has changed from a true man to a true woman, if we class a man or a woman purely by physical concepts.” (103) He likes feeling like an outsider. The Guardian was a liberal and feminine newspaper, and he was treated well working there, and had the respect from other liberal readers. But he didn’t like this. He liked it better working for The Times which was “very masculine” (70). “Few women worked for it, none at all in the foreign news departments, and I felt as I had felt in the 9th Lancers the fascination of being a licensed intruder” (70). 83-84 “Once more on Everest I was the outsider . . . I did not share the mountaineers’ burning urge to see that mountain climbed.” 86 “Still I was always at pains to cherish my separateness. I hated to think of myself as one of them.” “The pills I now took three times a day, as I started on my journey, were made in Canada from the urine of pregnant mares.” (105) Oh what humans put themselves through! I wonder if modern estrogen pills are still made with the urine from pregnant mares, and if people transitioning are made aware of this?! “My life was one long protest against the separation of fact from fantasy: fantasy was fact, I reasoned, just as mind was body, or imagination truth.” (115) Yes, it was his fantasy that he was a woman. And he made that fantasy become a reality as much as he could. I suppose all transgenders have this problem of separating fact from fantasy. “It was, wrote one London practitioner in the 1950s, as though when a man said he was Nelson, you were to cut off his arm to satisfy his illusion.” (125) That’s exactly what a sex change is: cutting off the penis or the breasts to satisfy their illusion that they’re the opposite sex. “In India, I came across a man with whom I felt an instant affinity, so similar was his system of emancipation to my own.” (115) This man he describes has obsessive compulsive disorder. That doesn’t say much for the sanity of James/Jan. He is not interested in equality between the sexes; he enjoys the stereotypical differences between the genders and just wants to be of the feminine variety: 69 “How marvelous it must be,” I once remarked to him by way of small talk, apropos of his great height, “to be able to command every room you enter!” “I do not want,” he replied in his most reproving liberal style, “to command anything at all”—an unfortunate response, though he could not know it, to one whose ideals of manhood had been molded by military patterns, and who liked a man to be in charge of things.” (69) 159 “I buy a construction kit for Tom at the toyshop.” Why does he buy a stereotypical masculine toy for his son? Why doesn’t James consider that his son might like something feminine? Did he even ask his children about their preferences, or did he just assume they’ll want to conform to gender roles? He never says. “I must add to them a frank enjoyment, which I think most honest women will admit to, of the small courtesies men now pay me, the standing up or the opening of doors, which really do give one a cherished or protected feeling, undeserved perhaps but very welcome.” (160) It’s ironic how men can be so kind to women in public, treating them like gentle flowers, but then beat their wives behind closed doors and rape them in dark alleys. It’s like a conspiracy among men: Let’s raise girls to be weak and powerless so that we can have our way with them, and they’ll be totally caught off guard and not be able to defend themselves. “The more I was treated as a woman, the more woman I became. I adapted willy-nilly. If I was assumed to be incompetent at reversing cars, or opening bottles, oddly incompetent I found myself becoming. If a case was thought too heavy for me, inexplicably I found it so myself.” (149) This quote shows that much of the inferiority of women is not innate, but taught by society and conformed to by both sexes. He brings up penis envy on p. 152. IMO, it is not the penis that females envy. It is the superior status that men enjoy that females envy. James doesn’t mind being treated as an inferior (149, 151), because it comes with the benefit of being the purer sex. “Women are more self-contained than men, and at heart less gregarious. In the ladies’ room they are far less likely to exchange conversation with strangers than the men are across the way: watch two women asked to share a restaurant table, and the chances are that, beyond a polite murmuring of “Would you mind?” they will not speak to each other from soup to sherry trifle.” (153) Shocking! Nowadays it’s females who chat in the washroom while men hardly talk to each other at all! Gender roles change with the time and place! Talkativeness is not specific to either sex! Another shocker: “I stop for a gossip. Not at all a feline gossip, as I might have shared in the 9th Lancers, at Printing House Square, or even at a shamefaced pinch with colleagues of the Guardian, but a gentle, harmless, fairly meaningless, meandering gossip.” (158) Nowadays males don’t gossip, only females! And it’s definitely the feline, harmful gossip that females do. He calls himself a militant feminist but seems to not know what feminism even is. “One of them has knocked my little red horse off the mantelpiece, chipping its enameled rump. I restrain my annoyance, summon a fairly frosty smile, and make them all cups of tea, but I am thinking to myself, as they sheepishly help themselves to sugar, a harsh feminist thought. It would be a man, I think.” (160) This is not a feminist thought; it’s a sexist thought. ““What does it feel like to be a woman, after so many years as a man?” I cannot honestly answer this familiar question.” (156) Odd that he says this when he just wrote a whole bunch which answers that very question.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Jan Morris is an author and was a foreign correspondent, who was part of the famed boy's choir at Oxford and where he returned for his education. He served in the second world war, married, had children who he adored, and in 1970 he wrote about his life, as a man and transsexual who eventually crossed that boundary with surgery that allowed her to claim her gender. This was written in 1970 when most people had little understanding of transsexuals. I am sure this book had far more impact in the se Jan Morris is an author and was a foreign correspondent, who was part of the famed boy's choir at Oxford and where he returned for his education. He served in the second world war, married, had children who he adored, and in 1970 he wrote about his life, as a man and transsexual who eventually crossed that boundary with surgery that allowed her to claim her gender. This was written in 1970 when most people had little understanding of transsexuals. I am sure this book had far more impact in the seventies. It is hard to judge it from the perspective of the 2017 world we find ourself in. Also Jan was born to a class system that most American audiences would not easily identify with, a class of English who was more accepting of the eccentricities of members of its own class: above the moralizing of the working and middleclass of that time. It is an interesting memoir more than for the conundrum, but as a window to a time and place in British history, the sense of male prerogative and how easily females were dismissed with the exception of strong women who interfaced with educated men of their class. It is a fast read for anyone familiar with the upper class British experience and all of their classical and literary references. I can imagine that others would totally get lost in the weightiness of the dialog....but an interesting perspective.

  26. 4 out of 5

    ambyr

    To a modern eye, this veers between surprisingly insightful and excruciatingly dated whenever it steps beyond Morris’s personal journey to comment more broadly on gender and gender relations. And I haven’t read enough memoir of the period and place to know how much is Morris’s idiosyncratic perspective, how much is a reflection of a particular slice of the British class system, and how much is broadly of its time. But it’s still worth a read to gain a sense of perspective on how much has (and ha To a modern eye, this veers between surprisingly insightful and excruciatingly dated whenever it steps beyond Morris’s personal journey to comment more broadly on gender and gender relations. And I haven’t read enough memoir of the period and place to know how much is Morris’s idiosyncratic perspective, how much is a reflection of a particular slice of the British class system, and how much is broadly of its time. But it’s still worth a read to gain a sense of perspective on how much has (and hasn’t—the airport security section could have been written yesterday) changed in almost 50 years. And of course Morris’s prose is lovely, and her reflections on her own psyche inarguable and sometimes profound.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    I would make this book a mandatory read for anyone living in the 21st century. The lyricism, the excruciating honesty, the clarity that it sheds on a topic not many people can experience first hand is a gift to humanity! I loved every word of this book!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Allison Clough

    Interesting life story and very well told, I just can't understand why so many people cannot hear a narrative like this and not accept it. It was dated in some of the ideas/stereotypes about men and women but overall I enjoyed it very much. Interesting life story and very well told, I just can't understand why so many people cannot hear a narrative like this and not accept it. It was dated in some of the ideas/stereotypes about men and women but overall I enjoyed it very much.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maria João

    One more star was given to this book because I believe the Portuguese translator did an amazing job with it. Read my full review (in Portuguese) here: https://booknerdreviews.home.blog/202... One more star was given to this book because I believe the Portuguese translator did an amazing job with it. Read my full review (in Portuguese) here: https://booknerdreviews.home.blog/202...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy Bennett

    For anyone wanting to understand what life is like for transsexuals, CONUNDRUM by Jan Morris is a must--along with the film THE DANISH GIRL and the book SHE'S NOT THERE: A LIFE IN TWO GENDERS by Jennifer Finney Boylan. CONUNDRUM is a classic, published in the early '70s, when articles, books, and movies about human beings with gender conflicts were not common nor widely available. Morris, who was successful in every sense of the word as James Morris, always felt that inside he was a woman. Under For anyone wanting to understand what life is like for transsexuals, CONUNDRUM by Jan Morris is a must--along with the film THE DANISH GIRL and the book SHE'S NOT THERE: A LIFE IN TWO GENDERS by Jennifer Finney Boylan. CONUNDRUM is a classic, published in the early '70s, when articles, books, and movies about human beings with gender conflicts were not common nor widely available. Morris, who was successful in every sense of the word as James Morris, always felt that inside he was a woman. Understanding that and doing something about it consumed the first half of his life; living as Jan Morris made up the second half. The book covers the before, the process of change, and the after; in addition, Morris takes a step back and talks about men and women in a broader sense--who they are, how they behave, and how they are treated in society (or were at the time of writing). Things change, and Morris recognized that fact in an Introduction written for the 2002 edition. I found the book very informative and interesting. If I have any problem with it, it is that the language is more formal, intellectual (sending me to the dictionary quite often), maybe as a result of the fact that Morris is Welsh-English and when the book was written. Personally, I prefer Boylan's account, which touched me more, but perhaps that is the time written and the fact that Boylan is American, uses words I am more familiar with, and touched more upon the emotional effects of his/her struggle on wife, family, and friends. Both books are worth the time to read.

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