Sixty Somethings by Nicola Madge and Paul Hoggart #bookreview @quartetbooks

Having been born in 1970, I am not a ‘sixty something’ but nonetheless, I was intrigued by the concept of this book looking at the lives of women who lived through the 1960s and who are now in their 60s and beyond. I was attracted by that eye-catching cover which certainly has a 1960s vibe to it.

The authors interviewed 67 mostly middle class women who lived through the 1960s and explored their experiences in several categories. It begins with looking at their memories of their grandparents and parents and how their experiences differed. The women shared their experiences of growing up, moving into their older years and finally reflect on how their lives measured up to the expectations they had when younger. I would perhaps have liked to have heard from women from different social backgrounds who would no doubt have had different experiences. Nonetheless this was an enjoyable read.

The women who grew up in the Sixties had very different opportunities from their parents who lived through the war and their grandparents who in general lived in poorer conditions. The impact of and opportunities offered by better education and being more able to access higher education were clear. The Sixties were a time of great change with improved technology advances in medicine. Attitudes towards women in work were changing, and the expectations the women had themselves of what their role in families and society should be are shown in the book. The stories, thoughts, experiences of the women featured in the book were so interesting to read about and it was often thought-provoking to see in what ways their experiences overlapped or differed.

One part of the book I found particularly interesting was the development and increased availability of the contraceptive Pill. This was generally regarded as liberating and as having made a huge impact on the choices of women and the control they now had over their fertility. However, many of the women felt it brought different pressures. Some women felt they didn’t have an excuse not to sleep with someone and felt pressured into sex. Some of the women interviewed in the book said that although women may have been able to sleep with others with no fear of pregnancy – and they did – they were looking often for love while men were still looking just for sex.

I am quite fascinated by social history so found this a really absorbing read. I think any women who lived through the Sixties would be interested in reading this partly to reminisce but also to compare their experiences with those of the women featured. Younger women like myself may be interested in getting a perspective on what life was like for their mother’s generation.

My thanks to Grace at Quartet Books for asking if I’d be interested in reading this and sending me a copy. Sixty Somethings is available to order directly from the Quartet website here: Sixty Somethings

From the back of the book

The ‘Swinging Sixties’ are commonly depicted as hedonistic days. A point in history remembered for the generation of young people who shed the trappings of their parents and grandparents and, fuelled by sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, set out to put the world to rights. A time when individuality was heralded and convention widely challenged. A time without precedent. But what was it really like and what is this generation up to now? What did they expect from their lives, and were they so different from those of their parents and grandparents and, indeed, even their children? Had their youthful ideals and expectations been matched by reality? ‘Sixty Somethings’ looks back over the lives of 67 women in their sixties who lived through the Sixties to explore these questions.

About the authors

Nicola Madge is a psychologist with a long career in social research and currently Honorary Professor at Kingston University London. She has written widely as an academic and is the author of over a dozen books on topics spanning education, disadvantage, health and, most recently, young people and religious identity. Paul Hoggart is a journalist and novelist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Times, The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent and the Daily Telegraph.

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