Julienne van Loon’s The Thinking Woman

Reviewed by Eugen Bacon.

An insightful foreword by Anne Summers gives you hint of this philosophical book that celebrates being a woman.  It is a compelling piece of art, autobiography and scholarship full of enchantment with play. It offers in its meditative approach to the everyday a journey that is also an inspiration, a sharing that is also a nudging in its sublime gaze at thought, emotion, reaction and contemplation.

The Thinking Woman empowers you with a critical and cultural scrutiny in its challenge of traditional hierarchies. It is a refreshing book that is all at once scholarly, entertaining and meditative, and speckled with beautiful passages:

Relief came in the form of cool evening breezes, which you could only enjoy if you left the building. Sometimes my brother and I slept on narrow army stretchers under the Hills Hoist, gazing at the night sky through mosquito nets. Through this gauzed vista we saw shooting stars with such regularity that they continued to fall behind closed lids, a stellar backdrop to the fragile landscape of our dreams.

This is a book full of conviction and much questioning. It richly draws from strong women, including Julia Kristeva—a Bulgarian-French philosopher, literary critic, semiotician, psychoanalyst and feminist who is also a novelist. Nancy Holstrom—Professor Emerita and former Chair of Philosophy at Rutgers University Newark and author of a million articles on social philosophy. Marina Warner— English novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer renowned for her many non-fiction books relating to feminism and myth. Rosi Braidotti—a contemporary philosopher and feminist theoretician whose wealth of experience includes personal access in a scholarly setting to philosophers and literary theorists Simone de Beauvoir, Gilles Deleuze and  Jean-François Lyotard…

Julienne van LoonAward-winning author Julienne van Loon writes in an attractive voice that engages your intellect. Her voice is so convincing, it conveys longing and facility.

Her words are like fingers so intimate they touch you from a strong position of knowing, and unknowing.

Her rich text opens you to the woman as a curious being in her embrace of the core themes of love, play, work, fear, wonder and friendship.

In her resilient voice for women, told from a personal gaze, van Loon has a particular gift of articulating the ineffable. She tackles each topic with clarity and honesty, a nakedness that is also a clothing.

Unafraid of the gaze, never a looking a way: This is me. Where are you at? Simple words will disarm you so fiercely, they linger for days, and open you to an invitation to be free:

I was absorbed by Australia’s breadth and depth, camping on beaches and in deep tropical gorges, rattling along in the old Land Rover along dusty back roads and minor inlets.

The Thinking Woman is a work of courage and inquisitiveness told with resounding repetitions that matter.

That matter.

You cannot help but feel both saddened and heartened to finish this story about the self and other, about a relational being capable of much thought.

And much feeling.