Bolder and Wiser by Sarah Dale

Cover of "Bolder and Wiser" by Sarah DaleI became interested in Sarah Dale’s writing after she guest-posted on the ALLi blog about how she’s managed to combine her love of writing with her day job. She’s an occupational psychologist. She then kindly offered me a free review copy of her latest book, which I avidly accepted.

Inspiration for Women of a Certain Age

Bolder and Wiser is an absorbing, carefully considered collection of advice about how to make the most of your life from 50+. (That’d be me, then!) Although aimed at empty-nester or near-empty-nester women who may be feeling slightly adrift after despatching their grown-up children to independence, I reckon it would interest and benefit any woman who has the sense and maturity to read it from a much earlier age. I think I’d have found it helpful any time from my 30s onwards, if it had been published sooner (or I’d been born later!)

To compile this advice, Sarah Dale interviewed 20 women over 60 who inspired her – REAL women, not celebrities with a manufactured public image or with a vested interest in conveying a particular message. From these subjects, she harvested wisdom about how to live a fulfilling life, before mulling it over and presenting her conclusions in a very well-organised, themed manner.

Reading the book offers the reader a short-cut to the condensed wisdom of these 20 women. The author also generously draws on examples from the her own life (she was approaching 50 at the time of writing) to illustrate her subjects’ points and to put their advice into perspective. Although the author is a psychologist by profession, her book reads like a conversation you might have with a good friend – intimate, confessional, humorous, poignant but ultimately cheery. She is comfortable exposing her vulnerability, which makes her easy to like and respond to. This personal tone makes the book much more authoritative, ironically, than if presented in a more dispassionate, academic way.

Comprehensive Content, Helpful Structure

Each chapter is on a specific aspect of everywoman’s life – motherhood, caring, housework, etc. This structure will make it easy to refer back to after the initial reading, should you need future reassurance and guidance on any particular issue. Worried that your house is a mess? Better to reread the Domestic Goddess chapter with a restorative cup of tea than spend hours cleaning it up (again). Stressed about your lack of a pension? Take heart from the Root of All Evil chapter. Then get back to enjoying the things that really matter. That’s not to say the book’s a licence for the hedonist – it’s more about aiming for a realistic balance and offering reassurance when life threatens to get stressful.

Offering reassurance is one of the things it does best, confirming what does and does not matter in the bigger picture of life. It’s like reading a definitive, very intelligent (but not threateningly intellectual) version of those surveys in women’s magazines that make you sigh with relief to find out that you’re – gasp – normal.

Uplifting and Reassuring

Best of all, this book gives the reader the confidence to embrace her individuality, to take strength from doing what matters most, and to dispense with insignificant details that can sometimes fool you into thinking they matter. It’s even got me thinking whether I should stop colouring my hair to hide the grey. (Who knows, I might even find that beneath my supposed “natural” colour, it’s turned the beautiful snow-white of my great-aunt’s hair that I always admired so much and which I’d be proud to have.)

Having started reading this book with a significant birthday looming unpleasantly (well, they’re all significant at my age), I definitely felt bolder AND wiser by the time I finished this book, and actually prouder of myself too. I’ll be buying extra copies as birthday presents for friends in future – and keeping an eye open for more books by Sarah Dale.

In short – an enjoyable, empowering book, highly recommended.

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this paperback by the author in return for an honest review)

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