The Journalist by Jos Scharrer



Kirkus Review

Scharrer offers a riveting fictionalized biography of her great-aunt Flora Shaw, one of the first successful female journalists. In the late 19th century, men dominated the world of journalism, and it was almost unheard-of for a woman to report from the field. Pioneering reporter Shaw, however, turned this world on its head by using her intelligence, wit, charm and bravery. Debut author Scharrer creatively reimagines Shaw's trailblazing life by piecing together her biography and embellishing it with scintillating conversation and rich, vivid description. Shaw first made her mark as an author of children's books, and this work carefully spells out her influences prior to her break into journalism. Early on, for example, she meets writer and social theorist John Ruskin, one of many thinkers who shaped her ideas on life. Yet, as she establishes herself, her own distinct philosophies become quite clear. This book isn't just about a writer coming-of-age, but also about her many breathtaking achievements. At first, the budding journalist was forced to write under the name of "F. Shaw," as revealing her gender would have damaged her credibility with many London Times readers. She eventually used her full name in her byline, however, and she rose to become the newspaper's "Colonial Editor" and one of the greatest (and highest-paid) female journalists of her time. Scharrer also observes that Shaw was involved directly in the Jameson Raid, a botched assault on the South African Republic of Transvaal led by the British statesman Leander Starr Jameson. The author expertly sets this scene: "Jameson sighed as he nervously slapped at the flies buzzing around him in his tent." Readers will feel as though they're getting a privileged, candid view of Jameson, and they'll sense the tension and the heat of the landscape, as though they've been transported directly there. Scharrer's prose is always sharp, elegant and controlled, much like the era it portrays. From the outset, it's clear that this work is a carefully researched labor of love, and it dutifully fulfills the vital task of remembering a pioneer in women's letters. An essential adventure in British journalism.

Review by Eyre G. Shaw

Through an uncanny gift of creative dialogue Jos Scharrer brings the character of Flora Shaw to life with an immediacy that projects the reader into the conversation as if being an actual participant. The book captures the spirit of the British Empire in its heyday with Flora Shaw at the helm of one of its most influential voices, The Times newspaper. The list of colourful characters interwoven throughout the pages reads like the Who's Who of British political power and influence, culture and high society. When this is coupled with Flora Shaw's nature as a fearless traveller who ventured into very remote places (think the Australian outback or the Canadian Yukon) in the best journalistic traditions of getting the story out, the personality that emerges is one imbued with incredible determination and ambition. That all this occurred in the late 19th century long before the Suffragette movement speaks volumes as to Flora Shaw's inherent skill in being able to analyse and capture in words the critical issues of the day. She was also no shrinking violet when confidently speaking in public, a rare occurrence in Victorian times, as she did when cross examined by some of the sharpest legal minds of the day at Westminster Hall during the Parliamentary Enquiry into the Jameson Raid. But, all done in a quietly self-confident, feminine manner which belied her steely backbone. Not that it ended there as much was to follow, most notably in Hong King and Nigeria ─ hers a long life lived to the hilt. A woman well before her time portrayed in an inspirational story ─ a story that has remained hidden for far too long and which needs to be told. I have no hesitation in recommending this outstanding and very thought-provoking book.

Review by Nicole Bruce

When you start to read this really surprisingly good book, you get a sense that what you are reading is total fiction as the main character seems more fictional than real, and more suited to a Victorian historical novel. Once you are into the book, however, you begin to understand that the amazing reality of this story, is that it is all true. Flora Shaw was a real character. Her journalistic career rise is chronicled with great accuracy. Her letters are real and many of her conversations are based on letters that described them. Her cross examination at the Inquiry into the Jameson Raid is based on the historical records and in itself is quite extraordinary. What we get is a satisfying result. The Journalist is a biography-based story on the life of an amazing woman who succeeded despite male prejudice. The author has brought the characters to life with clever dialogue based on extensive research. Particularly interesting is that the book turns back the pages of history and we get an insight into the minds of the colonial politicians who seized as much territory for the British Empire as they could, including South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria. Their ambitions, plots and deviousness are meticulously revealed. Jos Scharrer's long career as a copywriter in advertising must have much to do with the easy way in which her words flow and how she captures the essence of the characters.

I recommend this to anyone interested in journalism, history and inspirational stories of successful women.

Review by Patricia Hoar

A truly remarkable story about a woman who had the most fascinating life. Whether you live in South Africa or not I think you will find this story really worth reading about a woman that I for one really knew nothing about. A really good read.

Review by Jocelyn Fraser

A gripping tale of how a woman broke the glass ceiling of journalism over 120 years ago. Her adventures, achievements and contradictions which help make her the powerful Colonial Editor of The Times make a fascinating tale. A great inspiration to women of today, it chronicles how Flora Shaw achieved what she did and how she came to be referred to by the New York Times as "one of the remarkable women of her age." It also tells the story of how she married at age 50, the foremost man in the scramble for Africa – Frederick Lugard – recognized today as the founder and first governor of Nigeria – a name which Flora coined. Towards the later years of her life, Flora as Lady Lugard, was awarded the DBE (Dame of the British Empire) for her great humanitarian work in assisting 250,000 Belgian refugees in WW1.


★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Review by David Leedham on 12 June 2018

Interesting Book. At long last a good book about the Dutch Resistance, its part of WWII that you don't hear much about. Very informative, nice to see the Dutch side of things. A good read.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Review by Simone on 1 May 2018

This is an astonishing account of the bravery of Dutch civilians and resistance workers and a moving one. I'm glad the author has taken such care to record so much detail for posterity. It's really important that we never forget these brave men and women. A great book!