Book Reviews

A powerful collection of essays that traverses subjects such as feminism, addiction, families, and depression - all of which are broached with raw and uncompromising honesty. This startling debut introduces us to Emilie Pine as a brave new voice full of grace, compassion, and truth.

Reviewed by: Ronan Brady - physical artist, public speaker, coach, and brand new author

As the title states, Notes to Self, was not written for us, it was written for the author. And it is only to the great benefit of everyone who has read this amazing work that Emilie Pine choose to invite us in and share in this revealing, intimate and deeply human experience.

The matter of fact nature in which Pine explores snapshots of her life is refreshing and relatable. There are no contextual apologies for her stories; they are what they are. The first sentence of the book sets the tone; buckle up, she tells us, it’s about to get real.

Her meditations on life, her upbringing, her learned behaviours, and society in general gives the reader the opportunity and the permission to do the same with their own lives. But she doesn’t dress it up; she doesn’t soften it or make it more palatable for us to read. She is unapologetic and courageous.

Pine presents and dissects complex issues simply and eloquently: family dynamics, menstrual blood, fertility, unwanted menstrual blood, rape, wanted menstrual blood, agency - I even learn the acronym ERPC. She recounts her inner dialogues honestly, presenting them to us in what feels like verbatim. She spares nothing, including all those horrible thoughts that we sometimes have but never tell anyone. She tells us these baldly. And in doing so, Pine shows us these troubles only serve to make us what we are, which is inherently human.

Considering its size, the sheer depth and breadth of the topics that Emilie covers in this book is hard to fathom. She is concise in her writing, and through it I have learned so much about how the world is from a female perspective, challenging things that I’d never have considered as an issue before, because for me from my male vantage, they don’t seem to be, even when they most certainly are. This book gave me a sneak-peek into conversations had by women that are usually held well out of range of the ears of men. It’s insightful and revealing without being spiteful or casting stones.

With every chapter a new layer of the author is peeled back until it feels as if Pine has laid everything bare to us. These layers aren’t discarded, they are kept on display to be analysed. They are not hidden or apologised for, as they are what make Pine who she is. It’s a difficult and exemplary process, one worthy of exploration by us all. Her ability to be honest with herself is even more admirable than her ability to be honest with the world.

Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self is, simply put, the most profound book I have read. She has done a public and societal service by choosing to publish it. A book for all genders and generations. For women, she is an ally and a leader. For men, an educator who takes us by the hand and guides us. It is an uncomfortable joy. It brings tears and anger, awe and laughter. It is an empowering book that reminds us to reflect, to not mistake femininity for weakness, and to take personal responsibility for our own happiness.

Ronan Brady was once an inter-county footballer with Roscommon and a secondary school teacher. He made some leaps (literally!) and now spends much of his days airborne as a physical artist. He's also a public speaker, coach and is recognised internationally for his expertise in cyr wheel. He has just written a book about his unique journey.


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