With its intimate tone, honesty and humour, The Shift sits comfortably within the “menopause memoir” genre. Baker divulges her midlife biological embarrassments and steadily softballs the book’s ultimate journey, away from shock and self-pity towards focus, harnessed anger and recalibration.
It covers well-worn but still necessary territory, starting from the early signs of the menopause, midlife weight gain and appearance changes: “Honest to God it was as if the fat fairies had come during the night and coated me with an extra layer of insulation.”
Then there’s the perceived loss of sexual desirability, an examination of the toxic mix of sexism and ageism in society and its impact on women’s earnings and welfare. Lightly and cleverly, the book moves from persona woes towards acceptance and self-empowerment. The second half is peppered with funny and frank admissions: “‘I don’t fancy men any more,’ says my friend Liz… the token ‘we better eat something’ olives are sluicing round somewhere in the wine.”
For female readers who are already politicised and self-actualised, with a lovely sustaining inner inferno of rage, none of this will be new. From its aqua blue and sunshine yellow design to its chummy personal tone, it’s a resolutely unthreatening book that relies on uplift and cheerleading: “Confidence is sexy. Agency is sexy. Knowing you mind is sexy. Smart is sexy. Funny is sexy.”
But this very tone enables it to reach the unconverted and speak to new readers. This is something that Sam Baker, a highly experienced journalist and former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Red magazines, is brilliant at doing. The Shift will strike a chord with the English Everywoman who doesn’t see herself as political and has pootled along quite pleasantly in life, only to find everything changing as soon as she hits a certain age.
It’s a vital book for any woman who is at the beginning of her radicalisation journey, looking at her life and finally piecing together the personal and the political.
• The Shift: How I (Lost and) Found Myself After 40 – and You Can Too by Sam Baker is published by Coronet (£20). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15