To Hell With All That by Caitlin Flanagan Virago, hardback HK$195 Intelligent, witty, likeable, brave or contradictory, self righteous and elitist - readers and reviewers alike are divided over Caitlin Flanagan's To Hell with All That. Unlike the subtitle of her book - loving and loathing our inner housewife - she appears to elicit one or other of these emotions, rather than both. Flanagan is a newspaper writer, a wife and a mother of twins, so you might think she'd be ideally qualified to comment on the lot of the modern woman. She was born in the early 1960s, which makes her, she says, one of the last generation of American women born before feminism who 'began to redefine the parameters and expectations of a healthy girlhood'. However, like the millions of other women of this generation, now grown-up with families of their own, feminism did affect the rest of their lives and more specifically the roles of wife and mother. Her book is a mixture of memories of her childhood, her mother, and her own experiences of motherhood, and essays on such subjects as the modern trend towards lavish white weddings, the sexless marriage, housework and the working-mother debate. Flanagan writes her best when she's talking about her life. It's the essay chapters that fail this book. She rambles and at times I found myself asking where her arguments were going. She contradicts herself at times: she bemoans the trend towards hiring 'clutter warriors', then admits she's done so herself. But this is what makes Flanagan likeable - and I do like her, especially for her dig at the self-help gurus who would have us manage families like companies, with action plans and strategies. She doesn't preach or come across as whiter than white like the bed sheets in those 1960s washing powder adverts that featured the pre-feminist housewife - the kind of women our mothers were. She comes across as being a real woman, one who has grown up in a confusing time when the right to have a career has brought new dilemmas to motherhood. Like many women, she stands in a no-man's land between the stay-at-home camp and the working mothers. She chose to stay at home, and as a writer she has this luxury, but there are times when she stands with the professional mothers at school functions and rolls her eyes at the stay-at-homes. At other times, she's at the school gates with the other side, clucking disapproval at the working mother who's never there to collect her child. Chapters on her mother's death and her experiences of breast cancer are poignant and written with real emotion. And the chapter about hiring a nanny and the relationship and feelings for this other woman who loves and cares for her children will strike a chord with many women in Hong Kong. Verdict: Love it or loathe it, but read it.