Quick Takes – Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal by Sigrid Undset

Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal, by Sigrid Undset

translated by Tiina Nunnally

reviewed by Michelle Richmond

The 1907 novel by Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 1928, still holds up to scrutiny today. It is now, as it was then, a very modern novel. The subject–the interior life of a young married woman who desperately longs for a more passionate life–made waves in Norway upon its publication and has been translated for the first time into English. A beautifully written, deeply affecting journey into the mind of a woman struggling against convention.

University of Minnesota Press, March 2014, ISBN 978-0816692521

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Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker

Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business by Chris Ducker

reviewed by Michelle Richmond

While anyone who has read The 4 Hour Work Week may find this book a bit repetitive, entrepreneurs looking to save more time for themselves by outsourcing will find good information on how to find virtual assistants, how to work productively with them, and how much to pay.

The author interviews several entrepreneurs who have successfully grown their businesses in partnership with virtual assistants. Each of the interviewees offers his or her own favorite resources for things like project management, document sharing, and payroll. Ducker makes a convincing case that the Philippines is the best place abroad to seek virtual assistants. Ducker’s explanations of the roles you can expect each employee to play in your business seem like common sense and possibly filler (a web developer creates your website, an SEO expert optimizers your site for search engines). However, his descriptions of the cultural sensitivities one must have when working with a virtual assistant, and his emphasis on the fact that many virtual assistants in the Philippines are primary breadwinners for their family and thus should be treated as such, could help many online entrepreneurs avoid bad business practices that are harmful to their employees.

A caveat that the author admits to up front: he owns a virtual assistant firm. Naturally, he recommends his own firm to readers. His firm specializes in GVAs (General Virtual Assistants), and the book, unsurprisingly, argues that the most important part of your team is the GVA–the result being that the book feels a bit like an advertisement for his company. And, having read about the way the online entrepreneurs in the book make a living, you’ll be hard pressed not to assume that Ducker simply hired some virtual assistants to research the market and write a book that would bring customers to his business.

Verdict: Helpful and easy to read, with some good insights on navigating the cultural challenges of outsourcing…but because of the advertorial bent, one should take it with a grain of salt

BenBella Books  ISBN 978-1939529749

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