Wonderfully Weird Women Who Write: Why we should read Fiction by WomenThe Guardian recently featured a small article stating that female writers are often overlooked and marginalised in a male-dominated industry. It’s a widely accepted fact that while women are published in roughly the same numbers as men, their works are sidelined by reviewers and critics. The article in question was written by Joanna Walsh, who started the Twitter hashtag #readwomen2014, in a bid to encourage readers to resolve the imbalance on their bookshelves. For me personally, my shelves are probably tipped in the opposite direction, and so I found the whole situation a bit bizarre – as a culture, do we really read more men than women? Below is a brief discussion on some inspirational and strong female writers who definitely deserve a place on every bookshelf!
Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen,
in the haunts of goblin men.
Despite her sister’s warnings, Laura is coerced into accepting forbidden fruit from the goblin men; her addiction to the sweet food slowly takes hold. Rossetti’s account of the merchant’s stock is powerful, colourful and whimsical. Her words create a magical children’s rhyme while masking deep-rooted cautions.
Chopin’s exceptional writing defines a feminist movement in American history. In The Awakening, Edna Pontellier is smothered and stifled, and eventually drowns herself when she finally awakens to this realisation.
Following Chopin, Woolf is another creator of troubled female characters – Clarissa Dalloway, a widely recognised literary figure, is consumed by lifelong anxiety. Her story is made up of a rising and falling structural narrative. One of the best written stream-of-consciousness novels, Mrs Dalloway should be read by any literary enthusiast.
Wuthering Heights, the story of Cathy and Heathcliffe, their turbulent love and animal passion is both a romance and a tragedy. The story caused controversy at its publication due its forthright nature and unusual plot. Interestingly, the book was originally published under the male pseudonym Ellis Bell.
Rhys’s reconstruction of Jane Eyre is an eye-opening phenomenon in which Bertha Mason, Rochester’s ‘mad wife’ is depicted as a human being with a history. In Wide Sargasso Sea, a novel which emerged from Rhys following some time in seclusion, Rhys gives voice to the colonised Creole’s otherwise sidelined by Bronte. Good Morning Midnight is another text of Rhys’s worth reading – she captures depression and desperation through a mesmerising collection of personal details.
Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a huge fan of Plath. Plath’s femininity is one of the complications which set her apart and caused her to struggle in the shadow of her husband, poet Ted Hughes. It is also what made her poetry, and her novel The Bell Jar, so unique, and so profoundly feminine.
Carter’s numerous publications are heavily centred on women, adolescence, sexism and feminism. The Bloody Chamber is both interesting and entertaining, paving the way for today’s feminist texts. The collection was an inspiration while I was writing my own set of fairy tales, Between the Sheets.
Author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, Charlaine Harris has built a huge franchise around her vampire-werewolf novels, which have been adapted to form a hit tv series, starring Anna Paquin. The books are an easy girly read and are highly entertaining!
The last woman on my list is the exceptionally talented Ruth Dugdall, whom I interviewed recently. Dugdall’s book The Woman Before Me is insightful and disturbing – a real page turner! Dugdall has since written many more novels, all of which are reviewed here, amongst many other fantastic women.
There are so very many more women I could list here. The names above are only a small selection of some of my favourite writers. Do you have any names to add? Let me know in the comments!