Monday, 21 April 2014

Unearthing Venus - Cate Montana

An honest and fascinating memoir.

Thanks to Goodreads, I get to read books that I would be normally be sceptical about and I am glad to have had the chance to explore new horizons through this one.

Cate Montana's memoir is something like a spiritual quest to understand the feminine, the concept of a woman. Well, that is good but when I first read the jacket my immediate thought well, here comes another sob story.

To give you an idea, Unearthing Venus instantly reminds one of Eat, Pray and Love (EPAL). There, you get the gist of what this one is all about now. This one though similar, in the sense it is a life story but also interesting one, mainly because of the way it has been handled. To be honest, though I liked what I read of EPAL, I couldn't bring myself to stick to it to the end.

But where Eat, Pray and Love was about a divorcee who was trying to make sense of her life by going to Indonesia, India and Italy (what soured it for the reader that apparently she was commissioned to these places to write a book). However Montana here traces the concept of the role of woman and applies it to her personal life and upbringing and explores it through her experiences.


Montana begins by saying that what she wanted to write a book about being a woman and then flashes back to her background, growing up in the 50s and 60s, the kind of society she lived in. What makes it personal is her narrative about her female role model, own mother and seeing the role of women through her. Years later, she makes a career for herself in the cut throat world of television and takes us through her personal relationships but her mother still plays a pivotal role.

Her quest for the spiritual begins after she decides, when in her mid 40s, she gives up her job and begins the journey for "spiritual upliftment". The reason why I put it in quotes is that, that is something that I can't relate to. I could understand the personality traits when growing up, the need to excel in her career, her attempt at her marriages but then the spiritual bit alienated me. However, she does manage to make it immensely readable and credit to her for making an abstract and obscure concept of spiritualism into an engaging narrative.

What works:

  • Great style. Very fluid and effective. Keeps you hooked
  • Interesting the way she has talked her mother and put into perspective the role of women in western society in the 50s
  • Spiritual experiences can be a bit off putting but she makes it readable

  • What doesn't:

Well the second half was a bit of a ramble, maybe because the spiritual aspects left me a bit cold. Maybe it is because I have been unable to experience a similar thing.

However, kudos to her for coming up with a book that is impossible to put down. I mean you can relate to some bits, you may fail to connect with the rest, but the point is you can't ignore it. You can't leave the book half way saying well, this stuff is boring, because Montana is a good storyteller. She makes it her business to see to it that we keep going till we get to the end.

I don't hesitate to give up if the going gets boring. But Montana ensures that I stuck to it and I did because I admire the book as a fantastic piece of storytelling. The style and narrative are effective and is a great read without being heavy.

One does not have to have an interest in spiritualism to read it. Montana has had such an eventful life, that it is fun reading through it just to find out what happens to her next.

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