Hot Best Seller

Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today

Availability: Ready to download

Lacing cultural criticism, Victorian literature, and storytelling together, "TOO MUCH spills over: with intellect, with sparkling prose, and with the brainy arguments of Vorona Cote, who posits that women are all, in some way or another, still susceptible to being called too much." (Esmé Weijun Wang) A weeping woman is a monster. So too is a fat woman, a horny woman, a woma Lacing cultural criticism, Victorian literature, and storytelling together, "TOO MUCH spills over: with intellect, with sparkling prose, and with the brainy arguments of Vorona Cote, who posits that women are all, in some way or another, still susceptible to being called too much." (Esmé Weijun Wang) A weeping woman is a monster. So too is a fat woman, a horny woman, a woman shrieking with laughter. Women who are one or more of these things have heard, or perhaps simply intuited, that we are repugnantly excessive, that we have taken illicit liberties to feel or fuck or eat with abandon. After bellowing like a barn animal in orgasm, hoovering a plate of mashed potatoes, or spraying out spit in the heat of expostulation, we've flinched-ugh, that was so gross. I am so gross. On rare occasions, we might revel in our excess--belting out anthems with our friends over karaoke, perhaps--but in the company of less sympathetic souls, our uncertainty always returns. A woman who is Too Much is a woman who reacts to the world with ardent intensity is a woman familiar to lashes of shame and disapproval, from within as well as without. Written in the tradition of Shrill, Dead Girls, Sex Object and other frank books about the female gaze, TOO MUCH encourages women to reconsider the beauty of their excesses-emotional, physical, and spiritual. Rachel Vorona Cote braids cultural criticism, theory, and storytelling together in her exploration of how culture grinds away our bodies, souls, and sexualities, forcing us into smaller lives than we desire. An erstwhile Victorian scholar, she sees many parallels between that era's fixation on women's "hysterical" behavior and our modern policing of the same; in the space of her writing, you're as likely to encounter Jane Eyre and Lizzie Bennet as you are Britney Spears and Lana Del Rey. This book will tell the story of how women, from then and now, have learned to draw power from their reservoirs of feeling, all that makes us "Too Much."


Compare

Lacing cultural criticism, Victorian literature, and storytelling together, "TOO MUCH spills over: with intellect, with sparkling prose, and with the brainy arguments of Vorona Cote, who posits that women are all, in some way or another, still susceptible to being called too much." (Esmé Weijun Wang) A weeping woman is a monster. So too is a fat woman, a horny woman, a woma Lacing cultural criticism, Victorian literature, and storytelling together, "TOO MUCH spills over: with intellect, with sparkling prose, and with the brainy arguments of Vorona Cote, who posits that women are all, in some way or another, still susceptible to being called too much." (Esmé Weijun Wang) A weeping woman is a monster. So too is a fat woman, a horny woman, a woman shrieking with laughter. Women who are one or more of these things have heard, or perhaps simply intuited, that we are repugnantly excessive, that we have taken illicit liberties to feel or fuck or eat with abandon. After bellowing like a barn animal in orgasm, hoovering a plate of mashed potatoes, or spraying out spit in the heat of expostulation, we've flinched-ugh, that was so gross. I am so gross. On rare occasions, we might revel in our excess--belting out anthems with our friends over karaoke, perhaps--but in the company of less sympathetic souls, our uncertainty always returns. A woman who is Too Much is a woman who reacts to the world with ardent intensity is a woman familiar to lashes of shame and disapproval, from within as well as without. Written in the tradition of Shrill, Dead Girls, Sex Object and other frank books about the female gaze, TOO MUCH encourages women to reconsider the beauty of their excesses-emotional, physical, and spiritual. Rachel Vorona Cote braids cultural criticism, theory, and storytelling together in her exploration of how culture grinds away our bodies, souls, and sexualities, forcing us into smaller lives than we desire. An erstwhile Victorian scholar, she sees many parallels between that era's fixation on women's "hysterical" behavior and our modern policing of the same; in the space of her writing, you're as likely to encounter Jane Eyre and Lizzie Bennet as you are Britney Spears and Lana Del Rey. This book will tell the story of how women, from then and now, have learned to draw power from their reservoirs of feeling, all that makes us "Too Much."

30 review for Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I wrote this book, so it's not impossible that I'm biased. I wrote this book, so it's not impossible that I'm biased.

  2. 4 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | DISCLAIMER: this review expresses my own personal ie entirely subjective opinion. I understand that many will find my 'vehemence' towards this novel to be too much, but, it just rubbed me the wrong way. TW: mentions of self-harm Not only was Too Much not enough but what little it offers is wholly problematic. This book would have made slightly more sense if it had been published in 2010 instead of 2020. Its analysis of the social norms and literature emerging from | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | DISCLAIMER: this review expresses my own personal ie entirely subjective opinion. I understand that many will find my 'vehemence' towards this novel to be too much, but, it just rubbed me the wrong way. TW: mentions of self-harm Not only was Too Much not enough but what little it offers is wholly problematic. This book would have made slightly more sense if it had been published in 2010 instead of 2020. Its analysis of the social norms and literature emerging from the Victorian era are far from insightful or innovative. There are so many referencers to films that are now considered outdated and of little cultural relevance. Cote's theory of too muchness is unclear and indecisive, and her chapters do not have clear topics. Also, rather than normalising women who are viewed or have been viewed as 'too much' Cote glorifies them while tearing down women who do not fall under this category. What about female solidarity? But I could have looked past all of this. After all, feminism is 'in', and there is nothing wrong with jumping on the feminist bandwagon...except that I soon picked up on something rather disconcerting: Cote romanticises and idealises mental illness and self-harming. From my rating, and my ranty review below, you can probably guess that I disliked this book, a lot. For those readers who want to read some interesting, and feminist, analysis of Victorian literature I thoroughly recommend you check out Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. If you have the time I also recommend Cynthia Nixon's Be a Lady They Said in which she reads a poem about the impossible and contradictory standards society imposes on women. My Review In Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today Rachel Vorona Cote’s sets out to address the way in which mores and literature emerging from the Victorian era still bind women today. Combining cultural criticism with personal experiences Cote examines Victorian classics as well as fiction, films, and songs from the last and the current century. Throughout the course of Too Much Cote turns to her theory of ‘too muchness’. These perceived excesses—which range from emotional (such as crying) to the physical (from one’s physique to one’s hair)—make women undesirable within their society. Cote doesn’t clearly specify whether these excesses are seen as excess because they belong to or are originating from a woman, and would not therefore be seen as excessive in a man, or whether these excesses are a perfect response to existence in a patriarchal world. In her introduction Cote writes that Too Much “draws significantly from nineteenth-century literature and culture, grounding its discussion in a historical period when women’s too muchness underwent vigorous medical scrutiny, routinely receiving a specific, vexed verdict” and that she will turn to Victorian works in order to gain accesses to female perspectives (Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Christina Rossetti, Charlotte Perkins Gilman) as these works convey the Victorian period’s anxiety regarding ‘the woman question’ (from their bodily autonomy to their legal rights and their role in a marriage dominated culture). What I don’t understand is why Cote stresses this Victorian connection when in actuality she includes works by Jane Austen and dedicates almost an entire chapter to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novels. Her introduction and the title of her book suggest that Cote will specifically compare Victorian literature and culture to ‘today's’...why then dedicate entire chapters to Montgomery, Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994), or Britney Spears? Cote’s analysis of these Victorian classics offer no new insights into these works or their authors. After the introduction there are two chapters, ‘Chatterbox’ and ‘Nerve’, which seem to focus on the same subject: girls who are seen as ‘passionate’ in literature (Jane Eyre and Anne Shirley). The next chapter focuses on female friendships in a rather inconclusive manner. Is Cote telling us that female friendships are bound to have an obsessive if not toxic nature? Is she criticising Noah Baumbach’s Francesca Ha? Why then add her own personal experience with a friendship with another woman which was ‘too much’? Especially since in her case she suggests that one of the reasons why this friendship ended was because of her more-than-friendly-feelings towards her friend? Cote writes of the sisterly bonds in Goblin Market and The Woman in White, suggesting that both of them have sapphic undercurrents (while I can see why the sisters in Rossetti’s poem can be seen as being lovers, Wilkie Collin’s sisters are merely affectionate with one another). Then she seems to complain about the way in which Anglo-American society would view a close bond between two women or sisters as sexual...and yet she is doing exactly the same thing. More importantly, this chapter also includes a long winded and unnecessary analysis of Heavenly Creatures a film that is rather dated, does not portray a typical female friendship, and most importantly, was based on the 1954 Parker–Hulme murder case. Why focus on this long-forgotten film instead of more recent releases which focus on female friendships? She mentions Elena Ferrante…so why not write more about her series? Or question the trend of female doubles in domestic thrillers? We then have a chapter on the ‘Body’, and Cote once more writes her own personal experiences, this time with the notion of being ‘too fat’. Here she examines Victorian’s romanticisation of thin female bodies and the way in which a small physique and lack of appetite often denoted one’s altruistic and morally upright nature (such as Charles Dicken’s Dorrit). Once again Cote seems to criticise Victorian’s ideal of femininity and beauty, implying that one’s physical appearance (such as one’s natural hair) should not be regarded as reflecting one’s personality...and then she goes on to praise Lena Dunham from Girls for a nude scene in an “aesthetic defiance”: Lena “someone larger than a size two” possesses a body that “is not tame” but is “thick, firm, implacable” and “try as you might to sidle next to her in a murky bar or tug her arm on a dance floor or nudge her to the side on the subway, she will not budge”. She finishes the chapter with the following: “But when we are fat, when our hair defies gravity, when our noses are not perfectly pinchable, we’re interpreted as wild and unruly, and often foreign. This—I know, I feel—is good. We remind all those buttressed and soothed by patriarchy that we cannot always be trusted to comply and, thus, we become threats, fuses primed to be lit.” Throughout this chapter Cote criticises the way in which previous centuries have dictated the way in which a female body should be like maintaining the argument that women should not be judged on the basis of their appearance...and then she goes on to do exactly the same, merely flipping this idea over so that women who are not skinny, do not have perfectly symmetrical faces or bodies, or have gravity defying hair cannot be tamed: they are ‘stronger’, more unruly, more confident...women who straighten their hair, go to the gym, get plastic surgery are ‘less’, they are tame, happy to let a patriarchal society dictate the way in which they should look. It appears that Cote is judging women on the basis of their appearance. Mmh...there is something vaguely phrenological about this way of thinking. Also, Cote seems to gloss over the fact that it is often women who police other women’s bodies+appearance...then again, she is doing exactly the same thing. I have ‘wild’ curly hair, and I always dislike when strangers or friends assume that it is indicative of my personality. It isn’t...tis’ my hair, nothing more, nothing less. Cote also misses out on discussing why women are made to feel so aware of their appearance and why ideals of beauty are constantly changing (apropos the Victorians she could have pointed out that small waists are back in fashion). In the following chapter ‘Crazy’ she discusses mental health. Here she starts with an over-analysis of lyrics from Lana Del Rey’s songs, and seems to view Lana’s songs as autobiographical (why are female musicians/singers always questioned about their lyrics in a way that their male counterparts are not? Can’t women write a song that is unrelated to their own life experiences?). You would think that Cote would mention ‘the Woman in the Attic’ trope—popularised in Victorian literature—but before writing of Jane Eyre she discusses Pride and Prejudice...which is confusing given that 1) it is not from the Victorian era, 2) does not have a ‘crazy’ female character. According to Cote however it is Mrs. Bennet who is seen as ‘crazy’....wait, what? I don’t think many readers have ever regarded Mrs. Bennet as an example of the ‘crazed’ female. Mrs. Bennet says that her ‘nerves’ are delicate but to me it seems quite clearly an excuse to get other people to do what she wanted them to (in fact she reminds of Frederick Fairlie from The Woman in White). Also, Cote seems to have forgotten that P&P is a work of satire... When Cote finally addresses the most ‘famous’, or infamous, ‘mad’ female character from Victorian lit. her reading adds nothing new, she unearths no new depths in the implications of her portrayal. She then discusses Britney Spears...at length. She seems aware that celebrities do not reflect the experiences of a ‘normal’ person...so why spend so many pages on the “plight of Britney Spears”? Wouldn’t it have been more relevant to examine why so many women are mis-diagnosed? Or why female neurodiversity is only now being openly talked about? Why bother criticising Silver Linings Playbook because it pays more attention to its male protagonist than Jennifer Lawrence’s character? And once again discussing celebrities such as Demi Lovato? Anything and everything that a celebrity does is magnified, so surely we shouldn’t compare their experiences to the rest of the female population? Only in the last page does Cote mention ‘positive’ portrayals of female mental illness: Crazy Ex-girlfriend, Tuca and Bertie, and Jessica Jones. What about the thousands of YA books that openly discuss mental illness and addiction? Or the rise in novels that focus on female characters who are on the autistic spectrum? As pointed out by Emma Sarappo in her review of Too Much, Cote seems devoted to “the cult of the difficult woman”. In this chapter Cote hints that women who are labelled as ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ experience the world more keenly than those who aren’t. Depression shouldn’t be regarded as a medal of valour or some such nonsense. Those who struggle with their mental health or substance abuse should not be shamed nor should we romanticise or fetishise their struggle. Yet Cote seems to equated ‘troubled’ with ‘special’. Also, in this chapter Cote suggests that alcoholism is condoned in men...which...really?! The last few chapters talk about female sexuality, cheating, ageism...and cutting. The chapter on cutting is the most problematic chapter in this book. Here once again Cote mixes her personal experiences with her analysis of Victorian classics and contemporary culture. She writes of the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, and finishes off by discussing Prozac Nation, Sharp Objects, and Girl, Interrupted. Here, I was momentarily fooled because finally, Cote seemed to be praising shows that do not romanticise mental illness or self-harming. Sharp Objects and Girl, Interrupted are personal favourites of mine so I was glad to see that their portrayal of self-harming resonated with Cote. Sadly, Cote completely destroys her previous arguments—in which she stresses that self-harming should not be used as a gimmick or idealised—by writing the following: “A confession: I cut myself in the midst of writing this chapter, old habits quickened, I suppose, by the barb of memory. I am still learning that self-harm is not narcissism. A woman who is cutting is not indulging; she is carving out a route to survival, the only one that’s perceptible to her. And although she is no culprit, although she owes neither defense nor apology, she is already ashamed.” Let's remember that this is not a memoir about self-harming. This book focuses on cultural criticism and Victorian literature. Cote’s personal experiences can be somewhat relevant but they should not dominate the narrative of Too Much especially if she uses them romanticise mental illness and self-harming. Surely she is aware that her audience will be mostly composed by impressionable undergraduates? Surely she knows that this last ‘wink wink, old habits die hard’ comment is wholly inappropriate? Is she suggesting that the only way to write and understand self-harming is by doing the same thing? Or that once a self-harmer, always a self-harmer? That self-harming is an understandable response to existing in a patriarchal world or being labelled 'too much'? After reading those lines I felt nauseated. Her words were incredibly triggering and I had to take some time off reading. When I once again picked up Too Much I merely skimmed through the last chapters. Cote's popcorn feminism is simplistic and superficial. She tries to keep up with today's woke language but ends up expressing antiquated ideas: that women should be judged on the basis of their appearance, that we should idealise mental illnesses, addiction, and self-harming, that being sexually active is more empowering than being inactive....generalisation after generalisation, Cote's theory of 'too muchness' does not expand on why there are so many words, in the English language, with bad connotations, which are used almost exclusively to describe women's behaviour/attributes/traits. Not all of these words point to 'excess': take prudish for example. Surely, women today are not only constrained by notions of too muchness but by the possibility of not being enough. Victorian's ideal of a woman is no longer popular. While Victorian reviewers criticised Jane Eyre for being a bad heroine, modern readers adore Jane. If anything we criticise heroines who strike us as passive, as not being enough. Yet, Cote seems stuck in the early 2000s. There are so many shows and books shows that depict in a non-judgemental way female desire, addiction, mental illness, friendships, and even masturbation. I'm not sure what else to add...Too Much was problematic, inconclusive, and perpetuates outdated ideas.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Grand Central Publishing) in exchange for an honest review. I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4. I was really intrigued by the idea behind the book and I was really excited to read it. Ultimately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The book started off really strong with a lot of literary analysis. Then it sort of became a memoir with some literary analysis. I would have preferred if it stayed more on the literary si I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Grand Central Publishing) in exchange for an honest review. I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4. I was really intrigued by the idea behind the book and I was really excited to read it. Ultimately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The book started off really strong with a lot of literary analysis. Then it sort of became a memoir with some literary analysis. I would have preferred if it stayed more on the literary side. There was a lot that could have been explored. I did like the pop culture analysis. That worked well in illustrating the Victorian influence in today’s world. There were some critiques that I didn’t necessarily agree with. Some things were overanalyzed (like the Alice in Wonderland critique). The synopsis mentions that Lana Del Rey is discussed in the book. Lana Del Rey is one of my favorite singers so I was looking forward to reading about her. I was a little disappointed that she didn’t talk too much about her. She gets mentioned in the beginning of the Crazy chapter, but it ended up being mainly song lyrics. That got me thinking that there should have been a chapter on sadness (Sad girls is a pretty big phenomenon right now). Lana would have worked well for that. Overall, there were some interesting points made. The book just didn’t hit me like I thought it would.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tanja ~ KT Book Reviews

    Well okay, friends... I guess I’m too much! LOL! What an incredible and insightful look into women and what was and is commonly thought of them. US. I’m buying one for all my girlfriends and a few guy friends too! A must-read!!. Thank you to @grandcentralpub @hachetteus and @readforeverpub for sending this one my way! My new coffee table staple!!. Get it on Amazon - https://amzn.to/3cqe5kE Follow us on Twitter✿Facebook✿Pinterest✿BookBabblers✿Instagram Well okay, friends... I guess I’m too much! LOL! What an incredible and insightful look into women and what was and is commonly thought of them. US. I’m buying one for all my girlfriends and a few guy friends too! A must-read!!. Thank you to @grandcentralpub @hachetteus and @readforeverpub for sending this one my way! My new coffee table staple!!. Get it on Amazon - https://amzn.to/3cqe5kE Follow us on Twitter✿Facebook✿Pinterest✿BookBabblers✿Instagram

  5. 4 out of 5

    Terra

    Definitely one of my most disappointing reads of this year. (TW: self harm is mentioned in this review). Also should mention that I fully read about 65% of this, and then skimmed the last few chapters. This book begins with a ton of promise, and hits a lot of my interests--the Victorians, and an exploration of how women are expected to shrink themselves to fit society? Great! An author's note about how Victorian canon is almost always viewed with a cisgender, white, heterosexual lens? Fantastic! Definitely one of my most disappointing reads of this year. (TW: self harm is mentioned in this review). Also should mention that I fully read about 65% of this, and then skimmed the last few chapters. This book begins with a ton of promise, and hits a lot of my interests--the Victorians, and an exploration of how women are expected to shrink themselves to fit society? Great! An author's note about how Victorian canon is almost always viewed with a cisgender, white, heterosexual lens? Fantastic! Discussion of Jane Eyre in the first chapter? Sign me up! Unfortunately, this book also suffers from the following: 1) A lack of good editing (the word "titular" is used Way Too Much, enough that it was noticeable and distracting). 2) Not knowing what tone to take. Does the author want it to be an academic text? A memoir? Literary criticism? The writing veers from overly formal literary analysis, to overly candid memoir. The author continually talks about being a "Too Much" woman herself, and illustrates this with personal anecdotes throughout each chapter. If she had decided to write a straight up memoir that also talked about her relationship to Victorian literature throughout, it would have worked much better. Instead, I found the different writing styles to be jarring and almost obnoxious. If you're going to write literary analysis or cultural criticism, great, but being formal in one sentence and referring to a character as "simply fucking insufferable" in the next isn't it. 3) The "literary analysis" and "cultural criticism" in this book is surface level, and simply regurgitates points that other authors have made. It reads like a rehash of Anne Helen Petersen's (fantastic) book "Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman," only it also suffers from "shiny object syndrome" and cannot focus on one piece of media long enough for there to be any new original thoughts or depth. There are occasional lines or moments where I was "YES, you are on to something," only for the author to abruptly jerk away and jump to something else entirely. It relies far too much on secondary sources, and personal anecdotes for there to be any new ideas. 4) This book is supposed to be about how the Victorian era shaped societal expectations of women, and how these expectations still dictate women's lives today. In some ways, this thesis statement is far too broad, as there's no clear line drawn between the Victorian era and present day in any of the chapters. The author again jumps all over the place. She devotes the first ten pages of one chapter to Jane Austen, who isn't even a Victorian writer, and another entire chapter to L.M. Montgomery's works, who was writing in the early to mid 20th century. The author's attempts to connect these works to 20th and 21st century pop culture also feels scattered and undeveloped, and sometimes baffling. In one chapter, on mental illness, the author writes: "Sylvia Plath has become a Lana Del Rey-esque icon, fucked up, but beautiful and glamorous." I stared at this sentence for a full minute, oddly offended, but not entirely sure why. Honestly, this describes my emotions towards this book in general. 5) The author also talks a great deal of her intent for this book to be "inclusive" and to "draw in experiences of queer people and people of color." Fantastic! However, her attempts to do this feel like an afterthought, or like she's searching for woke brownie points. For example, in a chapter about unruly bodies, she puts in a paragraph about the policing of black women's hair, which feels deeply undeveloped, and like an afterthought. The same thing happens when in the mental illness chapter, she tosses in a statistic about black women being more likely to be incarcerated. This also goes back to what kind of book the author wants this to be--cultural criticism, memoir, or academic literary analysis? The choices she makes, and the sheer amount of topics she brings up in each chapter makes it feel frenetic and underdeveloped, which defeats the purpose of wanting to draw in other experiences and give queer people and people of color their due. 6) There is a chapter that comes far too close to romanticizing self harm and cutting for my taste. I do think this would have been a better book if there had been better editing, and if the author had chosen to write this as more of a memoir of her time in academia, while also exploring the question of societal expectations placed on women. I feel torn between wanting to admire the author for her candidness and bravery in approaching difficult subjects (self-harm, depression, infidelity) but also feeling deeply irritated with the melodramatic, self conscious prose that at times felt like a bad journal entry meant for the author's eyes only. This is also a subject that the author obviously feels deeply protective of--she refers to herself as a "Too Much" woman almost as much as she refers to "the titular character"--but because the themes are so personal, the writing almost seems like she's trying to make excuses for her own behavior rather than write a work of cultural criticism. If she had detached herself more from the analysis and focused on her subjects, or if she had fully written a personal memoir, this could have been a great book. Instead, there are lots of half formed ideas, textual analysis that reads like a freshman English paper, a failure to create an engaging intersectional work, and entirely Too Much oversharing. Read Anne Helen Petersen's book instead. Or read The French Lieutenant's Woman, by John Fowles, which does a much better job articulating how Victorian morals still follow us!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I wanted to love this book. I held on for nearly 80% of it, I wanted to love it so badly. (I skipped the chapter on self harm.) I’m a “too much” woman too, as well as a proud, unapologetic feminist. I would love to hear about all the ways that we ought to be “too much” as a way to push back against the patriarchy and make space for other women to do the same. I would love to hear about how residual Victorian mores continue to plague us. But instead? I got a memoir with bits and bobs of analysis I wanted to love this book. I held on for nearly 80% of it, I wanted to love it so badly. (I skipped the chapter on self harm.) I’m a “too much” woman too, as well as a proud, unapologetic feminist. I would love to hear about all the ways that we ought to be “too much” as a way to push back against the patriarchy and make space for other women to do the same. I would love to hear about how residual Victorian mores continue to plague us. But instead? I got a memoir with bits and bobs of analysis that somewhat circumambulated the author’s alleged thesis (if the subtitle is to be believed, at least). More than anything, I gave up on this book because it became clear that it was - intentionally or otherwise - a self-congratulatory piece on The Ways In Which I’m Not Like Other Girls. Instead of the occasional anecdote from the author to provide modern context to a topic, many chapters seemed to focus entirely on her experience of said topic, occasionally peppered with a more academic discussion of the matter at hand. When it became clear that the discussion was the exception to the anecdote rule, I bailed. This book isn’t a celebration of too muchness as a means of destroying the idea that maleness is the desired default; this book is the author’s celebration of her own too muchness. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing (though other critical reviews point out its multitude of flaws), but the book should be presented as such. It is not, and therein lies my beef.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Penny Landon

    Let me just advise upfront that if you are looking for a nonfiction book that discusses how Victorian societal constraints still color women's experiences today, this is not the book you are looking for. In fact, I'm having trouble figuring out what audience this book is written for, nor can I figure out what genre it's supposed to be. Is it Literary Criticism, Cultural Commentary, or a Memoir? Even I can't tell you. Let me co-opt the title of this book, which in case you were wondering is repea Let me just advise upfront that if you are looking for a nonfiction book that discusses how Victorian societal constraints still color women's experiences today, this is not the book you are looking for. In fact, I'm having trouble figuring out what audience this book is written for, nor can I figure out what genre it's supposed to be. Is it Literary Criticism, Cultural Commentary, or a Memoir? Even I can't tell you. Let me co-opt the title of this book, which in case you were wondering is repeated ad nauseam. This book suffers from "Too Muchness." There is no narrative focus and no depth to any of the statements made. The bulk of her topics rely on surface level literary critiques of some novels that are in fact Victorian novels and very, very many that were not published during that timeline. Any academic arguments are undercut by her slapdash personal assertions given with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. There is nothing quite like reading a section on women's mental illness and coming upon the assertion that Plath only gets recognition because "Americans do love their sad, sick girls, especially posthumously." Did I want to stop the book there? You bet. Sadly, some weird part of me just had to see this dumpster fire through to the end. This book is also in no way comprehensively intersectional, which in this day and age any nonfiction feminist text needs to be. Granted, the author does throw in a sentence or two about how each situation must be different for black women, but like the rest of the book there is no depth to the statement. If you're looking for a discussion of how social class ...intersects...you won't find that either. Any attempts at a connection to the actual lives of Victorian women are not fully researched and rely on the same stereotypical statements everyone makes regardless of their validity. Ex/ Corsets=Bad, Sexuality=fallen women or deviants. Honestly, if the author had picked one genre and a more focused topic, I have no doubt it would have turned out to be a decent book. Not all of the writing was bad, but the memoir style section on self harm should have come with a large, LARGE trigger warning because it even made me feel wildly uncomfortable. The only place I see for this book is unfortunately in an introduction to women's studies course for Freshmen in college. Personally, I remember hating to read books like this because it's stuffed full of cultural references that are already, as I'm writing this, outdated. That being said, its multitude of surface level arguments can be cherry picked for assigned reading and hopefully (if a decent professor runs the course) lead to more complex classroom discussions. Now time for recommendations. If you are looking for Feminist Literary Criticism, may I suggest the academic classic The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. If you would like to know more about Victorian Corsets and the fashion industry, I beg you to check out Bernadette Banner and Karolina Zabrowska on YouTube. Here are links to some amazing videos, with sources linked in their descriptions: What Did Victorian Corsets Actually Look Like I Grew Up in a Corset. Time to Bust Some Myths How Victorian Men Taught Us to Hate Corsets If you have any recommendations for nonfiction books that comprehensively discuss how the constraints of Victorian social mores still hold sway over women today, I would love them.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Deanna Ogle

    This book is very near and dear to my heart. Rachel Vorona Cote talks about “Too Muchness” which I’m sure many of you are familiar with: too loud, too large, too imaginative, too sexual, too irreverent, too independent, or you take up too much space. The author examines how the Too Muchness of women in Victorian were treated and then ties it to how women are still limited, stifled, exiled, caged, and bound by those philosophies today. Each chapter is about a different type of Too Muchness and em This book is very near and dear to my heart. Rachel Vorona Cote talks about “Too Muchness” which I’m sure many of you are familiar with: too loud, too large, too imaginative, too sexual, too irreverent, too independent, or you take up too much space. The author examines how the Too Muchness of women in Victorian were treated and then ties it to how women are still limited, stifled, exiled, caged, and bound by those philosophies today. Each chapter is about a different type of Too Muchness and embedded in these themes are beautiful, deeply vulnerable personal stories. I savored this book. Rachel Vorona Cote wields her academic prowess and sharp eye with an incredible clarity and sturdiness. The English major inside delighted in taking a deeper look at the fictional women who inhabit our cultural landscape and discovering new ways to understand them (and myself). (There is a chapter that includes Alice in Wonderland that is so insightful.) I'd recommend this book to women who love Victorian era books, lit nerds, those interested in women's studies, feminism, or cultural criticism, and any women who feels like they are just too much for the people around them to handle. Full disclosure: The author is a friend of mine, but that doesn’t change the fact that I adored this book. Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily S

    1-2 stars. I save one-star reviews for books that I think do a disservice to society so this isn’t that. BUT I have two big pet peeves involving memoirs and this one checks off both — 1) when writers masquerade memoir as nonfiction (for an example of how to honestly package a nonfiction book that includes elements of memoir, see Michelle McNamara’s book about her search for the golden gate killer), and 2) when writers extrapolate from their experiences to make generalizations about large categor 1-2 stars. I save one-star reviews for books that I think do a disservice to society so this isn’t that. BUT I have two big pet peeves involving memoirs and this one checks off both — 1) when writers masquerade memoir as nonfiction (for an example of how to honestly package a nonfiction book that includes elements of memoir, see Michelle McNamara’s book about her search for the golden gate killer), and 2) when writers extrapolate from their experiences to make generalizations about large categories of people. I think this content could have been more successful if it had been divided and fleshed out in two totally separate books, 1) a memoir, and 2) a cultural commentary tracing gender mores from the Victorian era to present day through the lens of literature and pop culture. Combining the two was jarring, and interesting ideas, when they arose, were left undeveloped. I’m not sure how much of this is the editor or publisher’s fault, but the subtitle and packaging of the book is really inapt and misleading. As a final note, I take issue with the presentation of self-harm and cheating as natural or excusable or justifiable responses to patriarchal society. I understand the desire to write about difficult situations in a way that allows for some personal grace and forgiveness, but I do not think self-harm and cheating should be embraced or glorified and this book unapologetically does the former and comes very close to doing the latter.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liz DePriest

    Vorona Cote’s background as a literary critic/graduate student is immediately apparent, and yet she manages to communicate the findings of her deep scholarly inquiry with entirely accessible and often lyrical prose. The breadth of Victorian and recent women/figures she analyzes is impressive, as are the ways she manages to illuminate the lineage between Victorian conceptions of women who were “too much” and our own. In her hands, for example, we can see common threads between the judgments and r Vorona Cote’s background as a literary critic/graduate student is immediately apparent, and yet she manages to communicate the findings of her deep scholarly inquiry with entirely accessible and often lyrical prose. The breadth of Victorian and recent women/figures she analyzes is impressive, as are the ways she manages to illuminate the lineage between Victorian conceptions of women who were “too much” and our own. In her hands, for example, we can see common threads between the judgments and regulations faced by Bertha Mason, the woman inside the yellow wallpaper, and Britney Spears with the umbrella. The case Vorona Cote makes for reclaiming and owning the idea of being “too much” was powerful. Her book gave me the opportunity to consider the ways I am subject to these negative judgments while also allowing me to reflect on my attitudes towards others— to ensure that I do not reproduce these harmful and limiting ideas, but rather, work to eliminate them.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Foxe

    DNF. My process as I read. First Page: Yay! Acknowledgment that most of the content related to Victorian heroines is about straight, cis het white women. Good. Good start. At First: Yes, discussing hysteria and social pressures of the Victorian society. As It Continued: Um... okay. Uh... are you getting to a point or are you just on a Tumblr rant? When I Almost Gave Up: Uuuuuuuh... that is a very specific interpretation of Alice in Wonderland you got there. Very... okay, this is why people hate Engli DNF. My process as I read. First Page: Yay! Acknowledgment that most of the content related to Victorian heroines is about straight, cis het white women. Good. Good start. At First: Yes, discussing hysteria and social pressures of the Victorian society. As It Continued: Um... okay. Uh... are you getting to a point or are you just on a Tumblr rant? When I Almost Gave Up: Uuuuuuuh... that is a very specific interpretation of Alice in Wonderland you got there. Very... okay, this is why people hate English majors. I get your point, but I think it's a stretch. When I Gave Up: Did you just... say that a corset was only there to restrict women's movements and cause them pain? Okay, we're done here. I can see a good book hiding here, but it really felt like the author was condemning anyone who is not like her, just creating a different constraint upon women.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marion

    This might surprise you, dear reader of this goodreads review, that I have been called “too much.” And it’s probably one of the most exhausting and infuriating things to be called. I come from a long line of “too much” women. And let me tell you we are pissed. ANYWAY SO when I saw this book my too tall too fat body jumped up and down and I shouted too loudly and too intensely and felt too much. Reader, this book was made for me. Like actually made for me. This book is all I want in nonfiction. I This might surprise you, dear reader of this goodreads review, that I have been called “too much.” And it’s probably one of the most exhausting and infuriating things to be called. I come from a long line of “too much” women. And let me tell you we are pissed. ANYWAY SO when I saw this book my too tall too fat body jumped up and down and I shouted too loudly and too intensely and felt too much. Reader, this book was made for me. Like actually made for me. This book is all I want in nonfiction. I grew up on a steady diet of Victorian novels and have an unhealthy knowledge of 21st century pop culture. Some of my fondest memories as a kid was listening to Britany Spears while pouring over my 19th century etiquette guide. (And let me tell you etiquette guides are WILD and I spent many hours giggling over it...as you can probably tell I was also called too quiet too loud and too independent.) So this this book was incredible. I loved the connection between contemporary America and Victorian culture, it was SO COOL to see it analyzed in such a scholarly yet approachable way. Lorde lyrics and Elizabeth Gaskell novels are analyzed in the same book and let me tell you I GASPED. I gasped a lot in this book. It was great. What struck me the most, though, was Cote herself. She not only puts a spotlight on Victorian literature and American culture, but her own life. She uses moments from her own life as being “too much” that were genuinely heartbreaking and profound. It so goddamned hard being a woman told that she is too much for this world, but goddamnit it’s just so worth it to be so fully in this insane and wonderful world. I’m so glad she wrote this book. I am so glad to be too much.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Canaday

    2 stars - it was OK Definitely recommend buying this one on sale, it alternated between "so dry" and "so dry and pretentious". There were some salient points but I felt that anything the author was trying to say was overshadowed by the word salads she was creating on the page. In case you're curious about how Victorian constraints do still bind women today, just look around. Be quiet, be small, be sweet. Stay out of the way, don't like sex too much, don't have visible emotions and always look bea 2 stars - it was OK Definitely recommend buying this one on sale, it alternated between "so dry" and "so dry and pretentious". There were some salient points but I felt that anything the author was trying to say was overshadowed by the word salads she was creating on the page. In case you're curious about how Victorian constraints do still bind women today, just look around. Be quiet, be small, be sweet. Stay out of the way, don't like sex too much, don't have visible emotions and always look beautiful no matter what. There. I suspect none of this is a surprise to any woman existing at any point in history.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

    I'll start by saying I was already a captive audience for this book. I was so excited for Too Much that I had its release date circled in my calendar. Which is why I'm slightly disappointed by this confused and kind of bloated text. I thought going in, based on marketing, that it was literary or pop culture criticism, with all the staples name-dropped in reviews and on the summary: something like the Cult of Virginity from Victorian Age to Britney Spears or an essay tying those themes purity cul I'll start by saying I was already a captive audience for this book. I was so excited for Too Much that I had its release date circled in my calendar. Which is why I'm slightly disappointed by this confused and kind of bloated text. I thought going in, based on marketing, that it was literary or pop culture criticism, with all the staples name-dropped in reviews and on the summary: something like the Cult of Virginity from Victorian Age to Britney Spears or an essay tying those themes purity culture together. But this is more of a memoir where Cote starts with a personal anecdote, names a few Victorian Lit examples of mentally ill women or old women or women who cut from memory, and then completely ignores them in light of modern media. The core of it, the Victorian Era and its literature, is completely glossed over for recaps of the TV series Sharp Objects. There is an extended section of text about L.M Montgomery's work while acknowledging it's from the Edwardian Era. There's not a lot of literature and there's a lot of memoir, may I be tasteless and say too much memoir? This is marketed as LitCrit and then we have an entire chapter about the author's personal affair without it being tied to marriage in the Victorian Era...often being completely out of the bride's or wife's control? There's absolutely no history in this book. The only context ever provided is a modern one: and we all already know what happened with Britney Spears. Cote also will take kind of backhanded extra steps to say that Sylvia Plath had white privilege in the chapter on mental illness, which, okay, fine, she probably did, but in the same painstaking agony to catalogue her own depression Cote doesn't also cop to her own privilege? Why are we taking cheap shots at 1960's racism and not 19th Century racism, the era this is supposed to be about? There is no effort to even tie Plath to the Victorian Era to begin with, so why drag her into this? There's a disclaimer at the beginning and so we know Cote is attempting to note that absence of diverse perspective, but christ, what did Sylvia Plath do to take 100% of the hit for being the white feminist icon of this book? I enjoyed parts of this book, especially any mention of Jane Eyre, as I always do. But this needed a tougher editing team deciding first and foremost what this book was supposed to be. Something incoherent but at least personal, like Bad Feminist, or a memoir through female literary tropes, like How To Be a Heroine, or unpacking women's role in society by direct comparison to the abridged bio of those figures, like Spinster. The depiction of the Victorian Era and Victorian Lit is completely absent, only half-remembered by someone who majored in this in grad school and seemed to do no other research on the books, this memoir totally overtook that idea so the conceit of the book ends up being...not enough.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    The day that I read an excerpt from this book, wherein the author talks about the Ramona books, I cried. I am not exaggerating. She describes how Ramona, whom I adored as a child, is larger than life -- and how this challenges the people around her. I cried because I've been called "too much," "larger than life," and more, for as long as I can remember. "Pipe down!" was constantly aimed in my direction. Another friend says that I emote like Niagara Falls. I knew I had to read this book. In it, I fo The day that I read an excerpt from this book, wherein the author talks about the Ramona books, I cried. I am not exaggerating. She describes how Ramona, whom I adored as a child, is larger than life -- and how this challenges the people around her. I cried because I've been called "too much," "larger than life," and more, for as long as I can remember. "Pipe down!" was constantly aimed in my direction. Another friend says that I emote like Niagara Falls. I knew I had to read this book. In it, I found a series of essays about Too Muchness across areas like sex, food, mental health, and more. I spent so much time nodding, understanding just what the author meant. Society seems to think that women shouldn't take up any space across a variety of realms, and this is stultifying to those who are not the self-effacing sorts. No two people are alike, and trying to contain someone's "muchness" (as Lewis Carroll called it) can be painful for the Too Much person. That's what the author gets across with tremendous clarity, in no small part by examining her own Too Muchness in a way that helps us truly understand it both from the inside and the outside. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is interesting, but not particularly revelatory. Therese Oneill's Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners covers much of the same ground in a more readable way. This is interesting, but not particularly revelatory. Therese Oneill's Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners covers much of the same ground in a more readable way.

  17. 5 out of 5

    ☆ BON ☆

    Actually just going to DNF this. As mentioned in my last update, I'm somehow on a spree of nonfiction books that end up more like self-help venting for the authors? The title of this should have read "how -i- am constrained" because it was very I I I and not we/women. Actually just going to DNF this. As mentioned in my last update, I'm somehow on a spree of nonfiction books that end up more like self-help venting for the authors? The title of this should have read "how -i- am constrained" because it was very I I I and not we/women.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julie Anna

    ⭐.5 I received an e-ARC for this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today provides many examples of Victorian classics and culture and compares them to the ways that women are still confined today. Rachel Vorona Cote looks at both the authors and works that represented the norms of the Victorian era, as well as the authors that sought to break them. Each chapter features an emotion or characteristic that women are of ⭐.5 I received an e-ARC for this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today provides many examples of Victorian classics and culture and compares them to the ways that women are still confined today. Rachel Vorona Cote looks at both the authors and works that represented the norms of the Victorian era, as well as the authors that sought to break them. Each chapter features an emotion or characteristic that women are often shunned for demonstrating “too much” of, and features portions of the author’s own life, memoir-style, to further emphasize those constraints in her life. When I originally saw this book, I saw it as a perfect fit for me. I enjoy Victorian literature, but I specifically enjoy the work of the Brontes, who I found were breaking the norm when it came to gender roles – and all things I feel we still have to deal with to this day! But of course, the characters they wrote could only go so far, as the Victorian era had many limits for them. So the link between authors like the Brontes and feminism has been on my mind for a while, and when I saw this book, I had to read it immediately. Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations. Between the full title of Too Much and its synopsis, I expected two things – examples of constraints on Victorian women, and examples of those same constraints on women today. And while the book technically does this, it’s organized in such a way that the whole concept of the book is lost. Additionally, the content and tone of this book change so frequently. Sometimes it’s a memoir, sometimes it’s critiquing literature with sophisticated dialogue, and sometimes it’s extremely casual. All of these things on their own are fine, but put together it makes for a very confusing execution. I also wasn’t expecting this book to be so memoir-heavy – in fact, I wasn’t expecting a memoir element to this at all. And I don’t want to say that her experiences weren’t valuable to the overarching themes of this book, because they were. What I did find, though, is that with everything else happening in this book, having a memoir element on top of it all added to the confusion of the whole concept. For each chapter’s subject matter, the book was covering Victorian (or other) literature and traditions, covering modern cultural examples, and discussing the author’s life. And considering the whole point of this book, I really hate to say that it was “too much” because the subject matter here is important and should be discussed. However, there was so much information here that it took away from what the book was supposed to be about. Additionally, there were quite a few portions of this book that stood out to me in a way that removed me from the book. For one, many of the “modern” cultural examples discussed here are not so modern compared to the book’s publication date. A lot of the references are about 10-15 years old. Which isn’t “old” per se, but old enough where I’d need a recap. But the book doesn’t really do that. For instance, one of the cultural references it uses as an example is the movie Bridesmaids. But the author discusses this movie assuming that every reader must have seen this movie. Luckily, all of the information I could ever need or want is at my fingertips, but I’ve also never read a non-fiction book like this where they didn’t explain the premise or assume that I must know what they’re talking about. I could understand a lack of description with more recent examples, but not so much with slightly older ones for things many readers might not be aware of. Or maybe I’m the only person who doesn’t watch rom-coms. Who knows? That honestly could just be me. Another part of this book that threw me for a loop was her critique of Alice in Wonderland, which is mentioned twice. In the scene where Alice’s body continually grows, shrinks, and becomes unbalanced, the author cites this as a commentary on the female body and others’ expectations of it. Additionally, when Alice causes a flood from crying too much, the author cites this as women being too emotional. Alice is a book that was heavily referenced while taking courses for my Computer Science degree, and my professors have studied this book heavily. In fact, many of the discrete mathematics problems we solved in our coursework were Carroll’s own. So for this scene in particular, as well as Alice crying “too much” and the other proportional issues throughout the novel, were actually introduced to me as Carroll’s critique of symbolic algebra and some of the absurdities that come into play while working on these problems. The author’s interpretations certainly can and do co-exist with the mathematical satire in the book, but the way this was written to me read like this was the only meaning behind these scenes, and that made me lose my focus. And this, again, is something I’d see in other non-fiction books where you would get the full background, and all of the angles before honing in on one interpretation. Like I said, I completely understand what the author is saying here and I agree with it, but the fact that a major element of the book is missing from that discussion made me feel less confident about what I was reading. Or maybe I’m just really passionate about math and don’t like rom-coms. In any case, Too Much was not a flat one star for me because the author is really passionate about Victorian literature and feminism, and her intent and emotion shows it. Additionally, there were plenty of literary works I was introduced to here that I want to check out after reading this. Overall, I just found that this book would have carried so much more power if it was more organized and the overall concept of this book condensed. With all of the books, cultural examples, and stories of the author’s life, this could have been a whole series of books, because the author has so much that she can share on this subject. But it was a lot for one book, and I think it would have read much better if this were organized better, and with fewer, more developed examples in place of many underdeveloped ones. I do wish I had liked this one more, but I’m happy to see that this is a subject matter that people are talking about (and that authors are writing books about). Find more of my reviews here 🖤: www.julieannasbooks.com

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sofia Soter

    the kind of book that will stick with me for a long time and bleed into my worldview and into my writing. how wonderful to have a framework to encompass those parts of myself — and of those I love, both fictional and real — that are usually unencompassable!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura In Literary Land

    Part nonfiction and part memoir, Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today was an eye opening read. This book is a fascinating exploration of the ways women have been minimized, undervalued, and diminished over the past two centuries. ⁣ ⁣ The book talks about “Too Muchness” -- too loud, too large, too imaginative, too sexual, too irreverent, too independent. Each chapter is about a different type of Too Much and contains personal stories from the author as well as examples from ou Part nonfiction and part memoir, Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today was an eye opening read. This book is a fascinating exploration of the ways women have been minimized, undervalued, and diminished over the past two centuries. ⁣ ⁣ The book talks about “Too Muchness” -- too loud, too large, too imaginative, too sexual, too irreverent, too independent. Each chapter is about a different type of Too Much and contains personal stories from the author as well as examples from our culture. ⁣ ⁣ The same qualities that a man is often praised for, bold audacity for example, are frowned upon in a woman. I've experienced this myself and Cote really highlights the hypocrisy of how women are judged and stifled over perfectly normal emotions. ⁣ ⁣ I don't read nonfiction as quickly as I read fiction so this did take me longer to read and digest but it was well worth the time spent. I found this book enlightening and validating to my "Too Much" self. ⁣ Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    su

    content warning: descriptions of self-harm and suicide attempt This review also mentions these topics and includes excerpts from the book. I want to start by saying I did not, no, could not finish that book. I know, me not finishing a book on Victorian era standards and how they relate to today, crazy!! But honestly, even if I could look past the early 2000s references the audiences reading this book in their 20s won't even be able to relate or the insufficient parallels forcibly drawn from Vict content warning: descriptions of self-harm and suicide attempt This review also mentions these topics and includes excerpts from the book. I want to start by saying I did not, no, could not finish that book. I know, me not finishing a book on Victorian era standards and how they relate to today, crazy!! But honestly, even if I could look past the early 2000s references the audiences reading this book in their 20s won't even be able to relate or the insufficient parallels forcibly drawn from Victorian works, authors opinions on mental health and self-harm were intolerable. The author, while pointing out how women have always been demonized for mental health issues and addictions, does not stop there and glorifies mental health problems in a way similar to her critique. Her glorification of a woman who is considered too much , who is depressed, manic or has addiction is no different than Dickensian portrayal of heroines whose tears make them only more attractive for the male gaze. While discussing mental health, the author takes only a few into account, mainly depression and borderline personality disorder, that is without naming them, and leaves out many others. And if she did not try to imply suffering from a mental illness against a public who tries to condemn you is a good thing actually, a superpower, it wouldn't have made me that furious. In case you think I am being too critical, I'll just provide the last paragraph of the chapter on mental illness: We do not choose the brains that spark inside our heads, lifting us into bliss, bearing us across a placid sea, and then, without warning, casting us into hell. My mind, sometimes fevered, addled, other times perfectly unextraordinary: I must take it as it is and grapple with it however I can. Sometimes it’s too much. I would not choose otherwise. The next chapter on self-harm, which gets into graphic descriptions with no content warning for the chapter (it was published in 2020, I mean come on!) also claims self-harm falls under "the restive, tapestried history of female self-inflicted pain" and equated self-harming to a feminine issue by stating "every woman- and girl-identified person who self-harms experiences pain and its associated rituals with fundamental specificity". Self-harm is, at the end of the day, a problem that needs immediate attention and treatment, regardless of whether those who self-harm are women or fem-aligning. I did not continue reading the book after this two chapters, and I didn't think it'd be that possible to fetishize mental illnesses while criticizing the very same thing, yet here we are.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jo Fletcher

    Echoing others' sentiments, I wanted to love this book, but did not. I think this is primarily because it was not what I was expecting, nor is it really what it purports to be in either title or book blurb. From both of those things, I was anticipating an, if not academic, at least mostly objective cultural analysis of the ways Victorian mores haunt women today, but what I found was a book that was about half that and half memoir. In its best and most focused moments, thoughtful discussions like Echoing others' sentiments, I wanted to love this book, but did not. I think this is primarily because it was not what I was expecting, nor is it really what it purports to be in either title or book blurb. From both of those things, I was anticipating an, if not academic, at least mostly objective cultural analysis of the ways Victorian mores haunt women today, but what I found was a book that was about half that and half memoir. In its best and most focused moments, thoughtful discussions like those I anticipated occur and Vorona Cote (who I do believe is a good and compelling writer) makes interesting and astute observations about the ways in which we have not yet shed Victorian era strictures. Highlights for me included the chapters "Plus" (the history of the quiet and calm consumptive, dignified whilst in distress, was new to me and I found it as fascinating as I did troubling) and "Crazy," with its explorations of mental illness, focused primarily on the original madwoman in the attic, Bertha Mason, and Britney Spears. My issue is that Vorona Cote uses her own life to illustrate each chapter's "Too Muchness." Now, I like essay collections in which the authors use their own lives as their subject matter or springboard (e.g. Lindy West, Samantha Irby), but I don't believe that's how this book was advertised. It feels as if Vorona Cote, recognizing aspects of her own "Too Muchness" in Victorian literature and history, decided to build her arguments around her own personal experiences. That's well and good in memoir, but it's not the book I thought I was going to read. I felt this approach and her repeated use of the phrase "Too Much women" narrowed the focus and relatability of the book as a whole. If, and I do believe the thesis is true, Victorian constraints do still bind women today, it feels like more effort should have placed on giving voice to as wide a range of womxn's lived experiences as possible, not primarily the author's own. A handful of personal examples peppered in can certainly enrich a text, but I think at least 1/3 (and probably closer to half) of this book serves as Vorona Cote's memoir, and I found it distracted and detracted from what I had perceived as the overall aim of the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    J. Brendan

    This is less focused than the title implies - Cote moves across the history of literature, music and film in elaborating her idea of women's too muchness and the strictures that attempt to limit women. Her focus generally is on Victorian culture and its relationship to contemporary society but she follows out this idea in chapters with focuses on the writings of Lucy Maud Montgomery and other authors outside the Victorian field proper. The guiding light here is Cote's own life experiences which This is less focused than the title implies - Cote moves across the history of literature, music and film in elaborating her idea of women's too muchness and the strictures that attempt to limit women. Her focus generally is on Victorian culture and its relationship to contemporary society but she follows out this idea in chapters with focuses on the writings of Lucy Maud Montgomery and other authors outside the Victorian field proper. The guiding light here is Cote's own life experiences which she details in memoiristic style and then links to broader societal currents. At times the movement between sections belies that some of this book began as distinct essays, but overall a fun and thoughtful discussion. Even if the arguments made are not necessarily new, the texts she focuses on and her own candor about her life made this an engaging read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    When I hear the words Victorian constraints it reminds me of a corset pulled so tight you cannot breath! Two centuries later we are still bound up by the way men perceive us as people and personas. This is a fascinating book that really gets to the heart of encouraging women to take power in their excesses ie physical emotional and spiritual. I love all books Victorian and about that era. This sweeps you from Victorian times to the current state of affairs today. Loved this take on women and thei When I hear the words Victorian constraints it reminds me of a corset pulled so tight you cannot breath! Two centuries later we are still bound up by the way men perceive us as people and personas. This is a fascinating book that really gets to the heart of encouraging women to take power in their excesses ie physical emotional and spiritual. I love all books Victorian and about that era. This sweeps you from Victorian times to the current state of affairs today. Loved this take on women and their rights to find their spirit within themselves.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cait McKay

    What a colossal disappointment. I heard about this book a few months ago and I was immediately intrigued. I wanted a thoughtful, interesting, and possibly irreverent commentary on how the rules and regulations of Victorian society (you know- something like the title of the book) still keep us in check today, but what I got instead was a self-indulgent combination of temper tantrum and pity party. The concept is fascinating: using examples from Victorian literature, frame how modern women are still What a colossal disappointment. I heard about this book a few months ago and I was immediately intrigued. I wanted a thoughtful, interesting, and possibly irreverent commentary on how the rules and regulations of Victorian society (you know- something like the title of the book) still keep us in check today, but what I got instead was a self-indulgent combination of temper tantrum and pity party. The concept is fascinating: using examples from Victorian literature, frame how modern women are still locked into the same constraints. Sounds interesting! Sounds like something that would be well-researched and thoughtfully commented upon! Sounds like a thematically appropriate think-piece during our increasingly fraught times! NOPE. Rachel Vorona Cote leans hard into the concept of women being described as "too much", which really has already been covered (and covered better) by Lindy West's Shrill, Anne Helen Peterson's Too Fat, Too Slutty, and Too Loud, and many other women who are currently writing, podcasting, and generally speaking their minds today. Cote builds a case that society is out to get women who do not fit into the molds prescribed, but really Cote seems upset that the memoir that she wanted to write wasn't picked up so she had to force it into a mold already prescribed. The majority of this book is about Cote's thoughts, feelings, desires, and wishes- there is a little bit of Victorian literature thrown in to adhere to the theme, but not much. Like Alice Bolin's equally frustrating and misleading Dead Girls,  Cote pulls freely from her inspirations by using summaries of whatever happens to tickle her fancy at any given moment, but those references- most of which are not Victorian in nature, theme, or time period, fail to illustrate anything other than "look at me, I too am a literary force to be reckoned with". There is a lot of telling over showing.  This book is not entirely without charm or merit, as Cote does strive for intersectionality and inclusivity and does note on the fact that the source material at hand (specifically that of the Victorian era) more-likely-than-not fails to include people of color, non-binary people, and people who do not subscribe to hetero-normative constraints in general. Cote's voice is clear and specific, but unfortunately her specific of choice is ME ME ME. She speaks openly about the impact of her mother's own "too much-ness" and how it helped to shape the person that she is, and I did genuinely feel for her while she mourned her mother's sudden passing- but what seemed to be a personal touchstone and jumping off point for the theme of the book turned into a blow-by-blow of every thought, feeling, and perceived injustice that Cote has ever experienced as a woman who is, in her words, "too much".  TRIGGER WARNING for talk of self-harm below! Allow me to break down a few chapters for you: Close - in which our author obsesses romantically over a female friend, is rebuffed, throws a tantrum, and completely ignores Greta Gerwig's creative work in nOaH bOmBaUcH's depiction of female friendship in Frances Ha. Crazy - in which our author tries to talk about the privilege and romanticizing of the crazy/beautiful dichotomy of white women like Lana Del Rey and Silvia Plath without irony while talking incessantly about her own story, once again. Cut - in which our author goes into excruciating detail around her own self harm; essentially putting together a how-to manual around cutting. Horny- in which our author regales us with tales of masturbating with a McDonald's Happy Meal toy. Cheat - in which our author is unfaithful to her spouse, attempts suicide when said husband wants to leave, and is ostracized by her department for dragging her personal life into their professional world. Loud - in which our author is chastised for being unprofessional at work, which is OBVIOUSLY an attack on her womanhood and not accurate criticism around her utter lack of boundaries and refusal to read social situations Cote makes an effort to tenuously tie her experiences to that of Victorian constraint and modern expectations, but it often feels like she is just checking off items on a list. Also, unsurprisingly, the modern bindings that she alludes to throughout are frequently those of her generation and older. She does not take into consideration any of the work that people of younger generations are currently doing to change, subvert, and in some cases dismantle the status quo.  All in all, Cote uses her "too much"ness as a shield; we are the enemies for not accepting her as is. Anyone -  fictional or living, breathing human- who does not adhere to the rules and regulations of "too much" is the enemy. By saying "I am too much!" it means that you must kowtow to my whims despite how outlandish they may be; Cote has stamped a "right or wrong" dogma onto a world that is full of nuance and choice. I feel almost guilty in spending so much of my criticism speaking about Cote, but had the book been written about our world at large and not just acted as a shadow memoir I would have had more to say on the topic, not the person. Are women still held to ridiculous standards and expectations? Yes! Is Cote's story the only way that a woman can exist outside of those standards? Absolutely not. 

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kit

    Loved it. Disagreed with some of the threads she drew, but I still respect her conclusions.

  27. 5 out of 5

    deniz

    I can't decide whether I hated this book or absolutely loved it. Either way, I have SO MANY opinions on it so here goes. This is a huge rant so my deepest apologies. (tw for mentioning of su*cide and sh) I think there are three main sections to explain my understanding of this book: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Good: First of all, each chapter was very different from the last so it was all over the place (which was enjoyable I think). The start was so beautiful, especially with the explan I can't decide whether I hated this book or absolutely loved it. Either way, I have SO MANY opinions on it so here goes. This is a huge rant so my deepest apologies. (tw for mentioning of su*cide and sh) I think there are three main sections to explain my understanding of this book: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Good: First of all, each chapter was very different from the last so it was all over the place (which was enjoyable I think). The start was so beautiful, especially with the explanation of Alice in Wonderland and the author's perspective. I enjoyed the Anne of Green Gable's content and it was all together a lovely beginning. I LIVED for the Lana del rey and Lorde references, and especially on the breakdown of pretty crying and being sad but beautiful. It def could have been expanded more but they were great ideas. The Bad: I mentioned this before, but there were so many great ideas the author just didn't expand upon. In the intro, the author went on about how we often take a white cisgender straight perspective and how they will try to be more inclusive but did the thing they promised they wouldn't. It was very white and whenever BIPOC were mentioned, it was always as an afterthought. There was this one instance that stood out to me about how beauty ideals regarding weight for women were rooted in racist ideas BUT IT WASNT EXPANDED. There was a chapter on heteronormativity but it did not feel enough in regards to how the author had highlighted the importance of understanding the effects of a heteronormative culture. There was so much promised but none of the promises were fulfilled. The Ugly: Chapter Seven was the start of the downfall of this book. Not only did the author glorify sh but they also took an approach where they tried to speak for every woman out there in order to explain why we may sh. That may not have been their intention, yet it came off that way. They glorified mental illness and I felt so uncomfortable reading it; it was very triggering and I wish there was a warning for the chapter. The last paragraph of the chapter was the worst thing I read out of the entire book because I somewhat felt responsible (maybe it was the weird wording or the fact that the author mentioned they sh while writing and I felt connected as the reader) for the author's actions. I just wish I never read that. One of the BIGGEST annoyances I had with this book was how the author tried to excuse their cheating by saying that women are forced into monogamous relationships. I completely agree that monogamy is the norm in our culture, but the whole point of non-monogamous relationships is honesty, communication, and consent. I don't know how to phrase this correctly. It just implied the wrong things about polygamous relationships and represented them in a bad light. The point I'm trying to come to: I think there were a lot of interesting ideas that I want to do my own research on (it was a nice foundation) but I would never recommend this book because SHEESH was it triggering. It was very white-centered while it promised not to be, and did not have a clear understanding of many of the topics it discussed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    She makes some good/interesting points but the overall effect is underwhelming. Drink every time she says “titular character” or “to be sure.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Corinne Baum

    Honestly, I thought it would be much different than it was. I really liked the synopsis, and the idea seemed thoroughly interesting, but the delivery was somewhat subpar. Vorona Cote's analysis is strong at the start, and presents a truly scintillating argument. Vorona Cote did write lines that really resonated with me, another white woman who has constantly been told that she is "too much", but I do wonder to what extent WOC could relate to the points she made. I particularly enjoyed the chapte Honestly, I thought it would be much different than it was. I really liked the synopsis, and the idea seemed thoroughly interesting, but the delivery was somewhat subpar. Vorona Cote's analysis is strong at the start, and presents a truly scintillating argument. Vorona Cote did write lines that really resonated with me, another white woman who has constantly been told that she is "too much", but I do wonder to what extent WOC could relate to the points she made. I particularly enjoyed the chapters "Crazy" and "Horny" for their pop culture comparisons to victorian literature. That being said, it had too many personal anecdotes. Many chapters read more like a memoir due to the lack of literary analysis in them. I can appreciate some personal anecdotes, but it wasn't what it was advertised as. I also believe that there should be trigger warnings in certain chapters because the way that Cote described her incidents with self-harm could be incredibly triggering. In fact, she divulges that it even lead to a relapse in her self-harm habits. "Cut" is a chapter that should've never been included not only for its triggering images, but for its little relation to the central argument and lack of literary evidence. Additionally, this is from a white woman's perspective. While Cote still makes a strong argument in many chapters, she still enjoys the privilege of being represented in these literary works. Granted, she does acknowledge this, but it's still worth noting. All in all, I'd give it a 3.5. Strong start with good intermittent points, but categorized incorrectly. It's more of a memoir with some literary and cultural analysis.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nic

    I should probably preface this with a warning: I’m not particularly fond of victorian literature. My bias comes, mostly, from its treatment of women, so I knew this book was very much My Thing ™. That said, I think even victorian lit lovers would appreciate Rachel’s clear portrait of how notions created during that time still corset (haha) women today. Mixing history, literature and pop culture references, “Too Much” doesn’t pretend to know everything (the author herself remarks how little she c I should probably preface this with a warning: I’m not particularly fond of victorian literature. My bias comes, mostly, from its treatment of women, so I knew this book was very much My Thing ™. That said, I think even victorian lit lovers would appreciate Rachel’s clear portrait of how notions created during that time still corset (haha) women today. Mixing history, literature and pop culture references, “Too Much” doesn’t pretend to know everything (the author herself remarks how little she could find of transgender victorian women). Still, it’s a lovely quick read that never misses the mark.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...