The Secret History of Wonder Woman

November 9, 2014 History, non-fiction, Review 18 ★★★

The Secret History of Wonder WomanTitle: The Secret History of Wonder Woman
Author: Jill Lepore
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: This book covered a number of interesting topics, but it tried to do too much and ended up feeling very disjointed.

Now that I’m back from my travels, I’m excited to really dive into Nonfiction November starting with my first nonfiction review of the month. I wish I could tell you I was equally enthusiastic about the book, especially since it covered a lot of interesting topics.  The Secret History of Wonder Woman doesn’t only cover the origins of the comic. It also includes a history of feminism, a biography of the comic’s creator, and biographies of the many women in his unorthodox love life. Unfortunately, the mish-mash of topics didn’t entirely work for me.

I haven’t read many comics, so I loved learning about Wonder Woman  and I appreciated the many comics which were included so I could follow the discussion. I also enjoyed learning about the origins and evolution of feminism. The biographies of not only the creator of the comic, but of his wife and his lover, were a bit much though. These biographies were important for their influence on the creation of the comic, but the author often jumped into them abruptly enough that I felt disoriented. There were quite a few times while reading this book that I found what I was reading interesting, but I wasn’t sure why I was reading it.

Despite sometimes feeling lost, I always had fun reading this book. The material was fascinating, this was an easy read, and I enjoyed the author’s sense of humor. Because of the organizational issues, I suspect there are better books if you’re mostly interested in the history of feminism. If you’re particularly interested in Wonder Woman or comics in general though, I think this unique, behind-the-scenes look at the comic could be a great read for you.

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18 Responses to “The Secret History of Wonder Woman”

    • DoingDewey

      I think so. The book was a bit scattered, but the connecting thread was the focus on events which influenced the creator of Wonder Woman, which I think could be fun for fans of the comic.

  1. Savvy

    Hmm, I don’t think I’ll be putting this one at the top of my TBR list. I think I would be disappointed in this one.

    • DoingDewey

      Honestly, I was bit disappointed with it myself. I do think it could work better for comic buffs, but as someone who mostly wanted to learn about feminism, I found the split focus of this book distracting.

  2. Shannon @ River City Reading

    I’m really glad you explained some of your issues with it so well, because you helped me figure out where it needs to be on my list. I’m not a comic person at all, but I’m really interested in it from the feminist angle. It sounds like it might be one to get to a little later, but doesn’t need to be immediate.

    • DoingDewey

      Thanks Shannon! I’m glad that my review was helpful. I was also interested in the book from a feminist perspective and I ended up disappointed that feminism wasn’t a bigger part of the story.

    • DoingDewey

      I think so! It at least needed to be better organized to cover as many different topics as it did. I did learn some interesting things reading it though.

  3. Jancee

    I have a feeling I wouldn’t enjoy this. I am developing a love for comics, and I like history, but sometimes I don’t like them together. Also, if it’s as much a mix-match as you said, I’ll probably get really distracted.

    • DoingDewey

      Distracting is a good way to describe it. I found it hard to get into any one topic because the book jumped around so much. There were many interesting facts to be learned, but I’m not sure I’ll have retained much.

  4. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

    I love the pop icon status Wonder Woman has taken in our culture, and it sounds like the comic has an interesting history with the creator being involved with many women. It’s too bad this was disorganized though, it sounds like a wonderful topic.

  5. Kim@Time2Read

    I attended a Random House presentation for fall releases last month. This is one of the books that they talked about. I can’t say it really interested me, but I think if I were a comic book reader, it would.

    • DoingDewey

      I think someone who wanted to read about Wonder Woman more than the feminism (the reverse of my interests) would probably enjoy the book more than I did. Although the book was generally disjointed, everything did eventually connect back to things that influenced the creator of Wonder Woman.

    • DoingDewey

      I don’t read comics either and while I’d like to try them, the feminist history aspect of this book is the main reason I picked it up. While that may mean that trying to cover both the history of Wonder Woman and the history of feminism was a good marketing choice, I do think it was too much or at least needed to be better organized.

  6. C.J. @ ebookclassics

    Wow, thanks for clarifying what this book is about because I wondered how much anyone could talk about Wonder Woman! The author is visiting here next month, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book. I will still think about it.

    • DoingDewey

      If it were me and it were easy to get to see the author, I’d probably read it. I’d really like to meet more nonfiction authors, but YA fiction authors seem to be the only authors who end up particularly close to me and even that’s rare. However, it’s obviously not a book I’d recommend very highly, so take from that what you will. If you do pick it up, I hope you enjoy it more than I did and have a great time meeting the author.

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