“Competition is all about winning and losing. There is the thrill of victory then the agony of defeat and experiencing the emotions of both is all part of the lesson. To lose IS the lesson. Learn from it, pick yourself up off the floor, get on with it and remember the lesson.”
Author: Jackie Smith Published: 2017 Pages: 172 (A5 book size)
This autobiography was written by Jackie Smith, a woman who changed the face – or rather gender – of British parachuting. At the age of 17 she joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps which lead to an interest in parachuting and consequently she became the first woman on the Red Devils (the Parachute Regiment’s parachute display team.) Throughout her years with them she jumped into many showgrounds across the UK and performed parachute demonstrations with her fellow teammates. She became a household name in the sport with members of the public always astonished that she could do all she was doing even though she was female (a somewhat patronising side effect of the patriarchy of the 70s.)
This book was important in highlighting the problem facing women trying to flourish in such a male-dominated sport. One of the most ridiculous of these perhaps was when concerns were raised over Smith jumping into events: “they didn’t like the idea of me flying my parachute over the crowds at show grounds as they would be able to see up my skirt when I ‘floated’ overhead!” Through moments like this, Smith successfully portrays the hurdles she had to overcome, hurdles which her male counterparts would not have encountered, making her story all the more inspirational.
As I have some knowledge of parachuting, there were elements which I realised may have been confusing for readers who did not, although to Smith’s credit, she did try to explain where necessary. The explanations were also accompanied by pictures which I enjoyed as I think that images are important in autobiographical works in order to provide evidence for the story that the writer is telling.
Smith’s achievements including being the first female in British history to wear The Parachute Regiment’s coveted Red Beret and being in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first person, male or female, to score ten perfect scores on an electronic measuring pad at a World Parachuting Championships, are a testament to her success as a British parachutist. This autobiography documents memories from all over the world including the USA, Brazil, Croatia and of course many drop zones in the UK and illustrates the highs and lows of trying to become a World Champion. Her determination to be the best in her sport, despite many believing her gender would hold her back, is empowering for any woman who reads Marooned.
Overall, it is not the most professionally written book I have ever read, but I think the colloquial writing and friendly tone actually aid the book’s appeal; for me at least, the book felt like it could be my mum talking which, coupled with a plethora of funny anecdotes, gave it a warmth and familiarity. The most important conclusion I came to about this book is that it is a story of resilience, determination and most saliently, girl power!