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To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife Paperback – May 8, 2007

3.3 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Flanagan's take on why modern mothers are conflicted about their roles is so witty and well researched—she quotes sources ranging from Queen Elizabeth's childhood nanny to Total Woman Marabel Morgan—that it's easy to overlook that she offers no evidence to back up her chief notion "that women have a deeply felt emotional connection to housekeeping." Coming from someone who admits she doesn't change her sheets or clean her house (the maid does it), it's hard to take this assertion seriously. But then, while Flanagan is a staff writer for the New Yorker and a regular essayist for the Atlantic, she's more a polemicist here than journalist. The problem is her self-contradictions. Flanagan is fed up with what she sees as self-indulgent upper-middle-class mommies (like herself and unlike her mother's generation) who have elevated motherhood at the expense of housekeeping, which she sees as a lost art. Yet she goes into great and fascinating detail about her relationship with the nanny she hired after giving birth to twins. Flanagan is particularly disdainful of feminists who "imposed" a narrative of oppression on women. The author claims she's not a cook, but in her debut book she proves herself to be one heck of a pot-stirrer. (Apr. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A true wit providing tons of gentle "aha!" moments, New Yorker writer Flanagan has outdone herself and is sure to evoke smiles and tears from her readers. This series of stories is as old as our humanity: the push-pull between the privileges of womanhood versus the power of masculinity. The remedy is the logical sequence of life events, beginning with the wedding--"A place setting of Lennox is, after all, a liquid asset"--and punctuated by Flanagan's cogent observations. Every rumination is, in fact, a microcosm of today's headlines and self-help books. Is sleep, as Dr. Phil asserts, the new sex? Are nannies all that necessary to the raising of a professional woman's children? And at what time, during what event, does a woman truly recognize the reality of all her various roles, whether mother, wife, or aunt? An insightful, incisive look at the multiple demands on American women in the new millennium. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316066273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316066273
  • ASIN: 0316066273
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,908,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The description on Amazon says that "Flanagan's take on why modern mothers are conflicted about their roles is witty and well researched." I can't say that I agree...I'd say that Flannagan's take on why modern mothers are conflicted is, well...conflicted itself. For me, the title: To Hell With All that: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife was about the most interesting and exciting thing about Flannagan's book. It serves to draw you in and makes you think you are in for something different and interesting, sadly this feeling doesn't extend beyond the title page. Hell With All that: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife is ten chapters of loosely related information that sounds promising, but never pay off. They ramble along allowing a glimpse into Flanagan's very pampered and privileged version of stay-at-home motherhood that left me shaking my head and wondering what the heck was the point she really wanted to make here.

Originally she quit her teaching gig to write a novel, and when she couldn't successfully do that she decided to have kids instead. The premise here seems to be that since she was failing at writing a novel and couldn't bring herself to just go back to teaching, she'd have kids because that would give her an "excuse" to not have to worry about the novel or deal with the feelings that failure held for her...it'd be OK if she found some measure of success as a parent. She might not have turned out a novel, but she DID squeeze out a kid...the logic is unfathomable. In reading the first few chapters, I didn't get the feeling that she wanted to be a mother, I got the sense that being a mother was a means to the end of continuing to stay at home...an excuse not to go back to work or find something else more meaningful to do with her time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're a stay-at-home mom with a nanny who cleans the sheets after the kids have the stomach flu, this book is for you.

For the rest of us, though, "To Hell with All That" is a curious look at stay-at-home motherhood through the eyes of a wealthy anti-feminist who has the time and the energy to actually consider following Martha Stewart's over-the-top housekeeping suggestions.

I found myself agreeing with Flanagan in some places and snorting disapprovingly in others, while being entertained throughout much of the book. At the very least, Flanagan writes beautifully. And her larger-than-life persona has helped land her a segment on the Today Show. If only she were speaking for us.

If you're looking for validation in your choice to stay home with your kids, you won't find much of it in this book. Flanagan likely has never endured a toddler temper tantrum in the post office, wondered if she can afford to buy a brand name cereal without a coupon or volunteered to make cupcakes for 500 kids at the school rally.

If you want to find out how the other half live, though, enjoy this book.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading this book, I have one big question: What's your point?

Flanagan, the anti-feminist, has set out to convince us that the women's movement has done women a disservice in showing that women might be dissatisfied with merely performing perfunctory household duties. Being a housewife should be celebrated, she says; women should be glad to fix dinner and do the laundry. Child-rearing has been elevated to an art and needs to be scaled back a notch, back to the days when being a wife was first and foremost and the children a mere by-product.

Excuse me? She really expects me to believe this tripe?

And she is the poster child?

Flanagan writes of the evils of nannies, the amount of discomfort they can bring to a household. And this in the same book where she devotes an entire chapter to the relationship she has with -- you guessed it -- her nanny. The woman she hired to care for her children for three years when she wasn't even working. It is the noblest thing to be home with one's children, she says, and points out that she stayed home with her children. But in the same breath she tells us that she had a 9-5 nanny and that she was practically paralyzed, unable to function, between 7 and 9 a.m. before the nanny's arrival. She makes it clear that children need their mother their when they're sick in the night ... but that she did not actually put the sheets in the washer -- that was the nanny's job.

She talks of the amount of satisfaction a woman should get from taking care of her home and her family. Then tells you of the maid and gardener who actually do most of said housework.

Sometimes it seems as if her point is to make it clear that she is a woman of privilege -- she can afford to be home, to pay all this household help.
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Format: Hardcover
Flanagan is often very astute and witty in her observations (why do women in their 40's wear white to their weddings?). She is also often touching in her depictions of her mother and her children. She is such a "social climber" though, that she comes across as a morally vacuous person. Ok, so her father was a college professor, her first husband was from "money" (whatever that means, but it was intimidating for her), and her latest husband is an executive at a toy company. So what? She writes as if she was a member of the landed gentry, and it comes across as crass and grasping. She's so unsure of herself - her intellectual ability, her parenting, her role as a wife, her "relationship" with the nanny. Her "voice" ultimately sounds like that of a clever teenager.
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