Tag Archives: women writers

Nine Novellas by Women: Another Challenge Completed

So I decided early on in the year that I’d really try to make a few reading goals to keep me going. I’m actually eight books away from meeting my yearly number goal. And I finished my first list challenge.

I’d been looking for some suggestions of books I might like to read, and this one caught my eye for multiple reasons. 9 Classic Novellas By Women You Can Read in a Day posted on Bustle. That tagline alone was enough to earn my attention.

First off- nine. A lot of lists go into the hundreds. So that was an immediate plus, because I knew it wouldn’t take all year to get this list done. Also- classic. I love being able to add more knowledge of well-renowned works to my mind. Then there was women. As a feminist, I also have been trying to continue to read more books by women. And of course, being able to read them in a day was a definite bonus.

So in light of having read them all, I’d like to rate them and say what I thought about each one and if I’d recommend reading them or not. I’d also like to mention the women who wrote them, since many of them were very incredible women who deserve recognition!

So here’s my rating starting with the ones I liked least and working up to my number one read. I used black diamonds 1-5 to rate how I liked it (there were no star characters so we’ll do this instead). 1 diamonds= disliked it, 2 diamonds= it was okay, 3 diamonds= liked it, 4 diamonds= really liked it, 5 diamonds= this book is incredible and one of my favorites.



9. Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter 1939

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The Plot: The short and sweet is it’s a story of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, a young woman named Miranda is struck by the disease and becomes delirious. The story gives a good depiction of what the epidemic was like at the time, something Porter herself had suffered from.

The Writer: Katherine Anne Porter won the Pulitzer for Fiction with her short stories collection which included Pale Horse, Pale Rider. She was recognized as a very important writer of her time, and her works continue to live on, even today.

 

katherine_anne_porterMy Rating: ♦♦

My thoughts: I think the main problem for me was that I just didn’t find the story all that engaging. I don’t dispute that Porter was talented writer, but I think the plot just felt a little bit dull, at least in comparison with some of the others on this list. Still, her works are well done and I would recommend checking them out if you enjoy short fiction. If we’re taking more than just Pale Horse, Pale Rider into account, I thought some of her other stories were a little more interesting.

 

 


8. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark 1961

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The Plot: A young teacher, Miss Jean Brodie, uses her influence over the girls in her care to become her ideal pupils. She hopes to inspire in them the same romanticism and make them the “creme de la creme”. However, what she doesn’t anticipate is them turning against her.

The Writer: Muriel Spark was a Scottish writer who wrote poetry, fiction, and criticism. She has been listed among the top British writers of the modern age. She won many awards in her life and posthumously. She received eight honorary doctorates in her time.  There is no doubt she was an incredible woman of her own era, and she continues to be well renowned today too.

muriel_spark_1960My Rating: ♦♦

My thoughts: 
I think the writing in this work is exceptionally lovely. In fact, I enjoyed it while I was reading immensely. I think the main thing I hate about it is just how sad the whole story is. Brodie’s influence runs deep in these young girls, and it’s tragic to see what it causes their lives to become. I think beyond my own disgust for the circumstances and characters, I really did like the other elements of this novella.

 


7. The Awakening by Kate Chopin 1899

 52277The Plot: Written in 1899, this novel portrays the struggles of a young wife and mother named Edna Pontellier vacationing with her family on the Gulf of Mexico. It is there that Edna connects with a man named Robert Lebrun and begins to fall in love, struggling with her own restrictive marriage in light of these new feelings.

The Writer: Kate Chopin is often used in women’s literature classes due to her radical writings of her time. She was a forerunner of the feminist authors of the modern era, and often drew on her own Southern upbringing as a basis of her stories, using her writing as a means of critiquing society. She was one of the leading writers of her time, and still remains quite renowned today.

kate_chopinMy Rating: ♦♦♦

My thoughts: Chopin writes very beautifully, and I have really enjoyed some of her short stories in the past. I thought this story was very well written and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the main problem is that as a modern reader, I cannot be quite as shocked by the content as many readers of Chopin’s times would have been. This doesn’t have the same radical value to me, and for that reason it’s harder to understand the importance of this work. Overall, I would highly recommend this novel. It’s a very easy read and does have some beautiful and interesting themes, even for women of today.


6. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 1911

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The Plot: Ethan Frome is trying his best to run his farm while his wife Zeena’s health continues to decline. Zeena’s cousin Mattie has been living with them to help care for her, and Ethan has become quite attached. However, Zeena upsets everything when she decides to send Mattie away. Ethan is troubled both by thoughts of Mattie trying to live on her own, and at the idea of losing her. He debates running away with her, but is hindered by his lack of money.

The Writer: Wharton was an incredibly successful writer and person. She was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer for her work. She was a Nobel nominee multiple times over. She traveled a good amount and worked hard during WWI to aid refugees and with other projects alongside her writing. Her works were quite varied and prolific, and she is well worth studying as a result.

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My Rating: ♦♦♦♦

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this work. Again, like with the others I thought the writing was quite impressive. However, unlike several of the other books I also really liked the story. It’s interesting because the story is almost as depressing as the others, yet somehow Wharton managed to engage me and keep me interested in what would happen to the characters. The ending is quite twisted, but it worked very well. This novella continues to haunt me even now and I highly recommend trying it.

 


5. Three Blind Mice by Agatha Christie 1925

13622161The Plot: Molly and Giles Davis have just opened their new guest house. They are beginning to entertain in spite of a rainstorm, when an unexpected guest turns up to let them know there is a killer on the loose, who may in fact be heading for their home next. The mystery and suspense continue as the group tries to figure out who the killer might be, and who he or she wants to kill next.

The Writer: Agatha Christie has become a famous name, partly because of this well-known story. It was converted into a play known as The Mousetrap, which has become the longest running play in history. She was an English crime novelist and playwright. She has been listed as one of the best-selling novelists of all time, and most translated author as well. She has left a lasting legacy, especially in the crime novel genre.

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My Rating: ♦♦♦♦

My thoughts: Unlike many of the other works I’ve reviewed, this isn’t one that stands out to me in terms of “great writing” at least stylistically. Chopin’s work is so evocative in the language and descriptions, but Christie triumphs more for me in terms of her plot. A good old-fashioned murder mystery can be extremely entertaining, especially if its well done like Christie’s is. I really enjoyed Three Blind Mice and also devoured the other stories in the collection. Christie is certainly an author I’d like to explore more of, as I think her works are definitely ones I enjoy reading, even if they don’t challenge my thinking quite as much.


4. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan 1954

3223882The Plot: The story begins with Cécile, a young woman on vacation on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea with her father and his mistress Elsa. She is seventeen years old and has found love for the first time. However, things are never easy, and a woman named Anne Larsen arrives just in time to wreak havoc on her peaceful vacation.

The Writer: Sagan was a French playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. She was only eighteen when she published this novel, and yet it became her most well-known work. At her death, President Chirac commented on the loss of an incredible writer of their country.
My Rating: ♦♦♦♦franc3a7oise_sagan

My thoughts: I need to try reading this novel in French, partly because I thought the writing was incredible, but I cannot be sure how accurate the translation I was reading was. The story is certainly sad, as many of the ones on this list are, but it was interesting and the characters all amused me. I read several reviews from people who thought this was simply a spoiled teenager’s view of the world, but maybe as a young adult myself I can recognize some of the ways Cécile was feeling in trying to figure out what she wanted from life. I certainly enjoyed it, and I’ll have to test my French skills at some point!


3. Passing by Nella Larsen 1929

349929The Plot: The story is set in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. It tells the story of two black women who are able to “pass” for white and the very different lives they live. Irene Redfield has married a black physician and lives a privileged life in Harlem. Clare Kendry, her childhood friend, has married a racist white man who has no knowledge of her racial identity. Clare is envious of Irene’s ability to go between the two races and begins to throw herself into social situations where she can mix as well. Irene worries about what will happen if Clare’s husband discovers the truth and the danger it might bring to her friend. She debates how to handle the situation.

The Writer: 
Nella Larsen only published two novels and a few short stories, but she nonetheless stands out as a prominent female writer in the Harlem Renaissance. Her works helped to contribute to conversations about sexual and racial identity at the time and as a result she has continued to be studied even today. She worked as a nurse and librarian, initially very active in the Harlem circles with other artists, though she eventually withdrew and gave up her literary career.

220px-nellalarsen1928My Rating: 
♦♦♦♦

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this work. I thought it was a really interesting exploration on topics of identity, especially racial, and that it painted a good picture of the Harlem Renaissance. I found both Irene and Clare’s stories interesting, and thought Larsen did a good job of making both sympathetic in their own ways. I highly recommend reading this novella. I found it very eye opening, and am hoping I can find other works that can likewise help me have a better understanding of issues I might not normally think to study.


2. The Lifted Veil by George Eliot 1859

2359437The Plot: Latimer has had strange visions of a pale woman, which he believes is a vision of the future. Two of his earlier visions have both come true, leading him to believe that this other one will as well. He becomes fascinated with his brother’s wife Bertha, who he believes is the woman from his visions. His unreliable narration continues to weave a tale of horror and mystery.

The Writer: George Eliot is often mistaken for a man thanks to the masculine pen name, one she selected in order to be taken seriously. Nonetheless,  Mary Ann Evans was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era, and in spite of her horror novella, she is usually known for her realistic fiction. She worked as an editor for a while, something which was quite unusual for a woman of her day. Her great novel Middlemarch has been described as one of the best novels in the English language. She was praised for her depictions of rural society and well-championed by other writers after her time, notably Virginia Woolf.

220px-george_eliot_at_30_by_franc3a7ois_d27albert_duradeMy Rating: ♦♦♦♦

My thoughts:  I believe this was the most exciting novella of the list for me. I devoured it in one sitting and found the plot utterly fascinating. My only worry is that now I’ll never be able to read Eliot’s other works without this tainting my view of them. It is, as I understand, a really unique work for her. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and it is one of my highest recommendations on the list.

 


1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 1818

33537The Plot: Victor Frankenstein becomes fascinated with the idea of reanimating the dead while studying science and anatomy. He ends up being successful in his experiments, bringing to life a monstrous creature who he allows to escape by accident. He retreats into the mountains, believing that he will never see his creation again. However, to his surprise the creature seeks him out, interested in building  a relationship with the one who made him, seeking answers for the wrongs that have been done to him.

The Writer: Mary Shelley is an English novelist and writer, who is best known for this work in particular, even though she wrote many others. She was the daughter of the famous mother of feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the philosopher William Godwin. Many of her works have become important in studies of literature, and she remains renowned for her writing, especially for Frankenstein which she wrote when she was eighteen.

200px-rothwellmaryshelleyMy Rating: ♦♦♦♦

My thoughts: This was the only novel on the challenge that I had read before starting it. It has been a favorite of mine since I read it my senior year of high school. The novel is brilliantly written, and there is just so much depth to the themes and questions asked within the pages. I have read it twice now, and likely will continue to study it as I grow older. I will never be able to forget the emotions this novel has evoked, or put aside the ways it has changed me. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t yet read it. 



I hope some of you might consider a book or two from this list that caught your eye, or even try to read all of them. I think they represent a variety of perspectives and genres, making them a nice and easy collection to read. Let me know if you have any thoughts!

*All information has been taken from Goodreads.com and Wikipedia.com, the same with the pictures. *

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Fifteen Fabulous Female Protagonists

It’s International Women’s Day, so I figured what better than a post about female characters and female authors…and then I figured why not combine those two subjects into one post. So here are some great women written by equally great women, or at least a few favorites of mine. I ended up having three memoirs on the list, but I figure each one of us is the protagonist in our own life, so I decided it would count. So here you go.

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The Character: Esther Greenwood
The Book: The Bell Jar
The Author: Sylvia Plath
Why She’s Awesome: Esther is a talented and successful young woman. While she certainly falls into a period of mental instability throughout the novel, she nonetheless remains a fascinating protagonist to follow into the depths of her breakdown.

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The Character: Celie Johnson
The Book:
The Color Purple
The Author: Alice Walker
Why She’s Awesome: In spite of all she’s been through, Celie remains resilient. Her struggles have been great and many, but Celie does not let that hold her back from finding happiness. She’s an incredibly inspiring character in her love for those around her, and her hope for better things.

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The Character: Vianne Mauriac and Isabelle Mauriac
The Book:
The Nightingale
The Author: Kristin Hannah
Why She’s Awesome:
You read so many World War II stories about men fighting or men leading resistance groups, but this book shows two strong women who fight for what’s right during the French occupation. Vianne and Isabelle both show incredible resilience and strength of character.

The Character: Emily Bronte300px-emily_brontc3ab_cropped
The Book:
Emily’s Ghost
The Author:
Denise Giardina
Why She’s Awesome:
Giardina’s imagined version of Emily Bronte doesn’t care about social norms, defying what is expected of her as a woman of her time. She is intelligent and extremely talented in spite of her odd qualities. She loves animals and isn’t afraid of debating with men.

The Character: Cath Averylg_fangirl-coverdec2012-725x1075_1402265047-3006
The Book:
Fangirl
The Author: Rainbow Rowell
Why She’s Awesome:
Cath Avery describes herself as a complete disaster. To be honest, it’s sort of true. But she is nonetheless a lovable character who struggles through a transition into a new environment while dealing with family problems and her own anxieties. Cath’s hope and imagination make her shine as a character.

The Character: June Woo and othersjoyluckclub_044pyxurz
The Book:
The Joy Luck Club
The Author: Amy Tan
Why She’s Awesome:
All of the women in this book are amazing, but June’s story does seem to be the one that begins and ends the book, so I thought I’d mention her most. June is a bit unsure of herself at times. She wants to be American and often pushes away her mother’s traditions, but after a while she begins to understand that her identity is wrapped up in her heritage.

The Character: Ayaan Hirsi Ali220px-ayaan_hirsi_ali_2006_cropped
The Book:
Infidel
The Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Why She’s Awesome:
One of the memoirs on here where the protagonist is also the author. Ali describes a brutal history including a female circumcision and other unjust practices she experienced in her family and the countries she lived in. Ali is brave and intelligent, and her pursuit of a better life is truly inspiring.

The Character: Orlandoorlando4-0
The Book:
Orlando
The Author:
Virginia Woolf
Why She’s Awesome:
Well, this takes some understanding of the book, but Orlando actually is born a man and wakes up one day as a woman. To be honest, I liked that she didn’t really think all that much of becoming a different sex, other than realizing the restrictions placed upon her as a result. Orlando continued to live a free life, writing and searching for love. She’s pretty awesome as a result (plus she’s played by Tilda Swinton in the film version!)

The Character: Rachel Held Evansrachel-held-evans-feminist-christian-woman-lives-biblically-for-12-months-22
The Book:
A Year of Biblical Womanhood
The Author: Rachel Held Evans
Why She’s Awesome:
Evans writes a fantastic book about a journey to understanding more about life as a Christian woman exploring traditions of the past and present in her book. She’s quite funny and a talented writer, and displays a clever and open spirit that makes her works so enjoyable to read. As a Christian woman wrestling with what being a woman really means, I have to really recommend her book.

The Character: Offredoffred
The Book:
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Author: Margaret Atwood
Why She’s Awesome:
Offred lives in a society that severely oppresses its women. In spite of that she remains strong. She continually remembers the better times, and soon begins to pursue an escape. Her journey in her present oppression and remembering her better past life brings about great questions about sex and society.

The Character: Harriet Jacobsharriet_ann_jacobs1894
The Book:
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
The Author: Harriet Jacobs
Why She’s Awesome:
Many people read slave narratives describing the lives of men, but it’s even more interesting to read into the lives of those not only oppressed for their race but also for their sex. Jacobs shows a great amount of persistence in her fight for a better life for herself and her family. She is intelligent and strong, never giving up no matter how hard her circumstances become.

The Character: Jane Eyrejane1
The Book:
Jane Eyre
The Author: Charlotte Brontë
Why She’s Awesome:
Jane is a fantastic character. She maintains her own self-confidence in spite of everyone around her who tries to discourage it. She is determined to ignore the circumstances into which she was born, rising above it as best she can. Jane is clever and honest, and she never once gives up.

The Character: Skeeter Phelan, Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson5168528_orig
The Book:
The Help
The Author:
Kathryn Stockett
Why She’s Awesome:
All three of these characters are fantastic. From Skeeter who is determined to have a career instead of a family, to Aibileen who is trying to inspire love in the children she watches in spite of the cruelty she faces everyday, to stubborn Minny who refuses to sit quietly and take abuse, all three of these women are amazing creations.

The Character: Janie Starks7268752
The Book:
Their Eyes Were Watching God
The Author: Zora Neale Hurston
Why She’s Awesome:
Janie is determined to find love, following her childhood dreams in spite of everything she’s been taught. Janie is tough and clever. She doesn’t back out of a fight. She lets Teacup teach her how to hunt and fish and wears overalls instead of dresses.

The Character: Anne Elliotanne-elliot-persuasion-2624403-283-359
The Book:
Persuasion
The Author: Jane Austen
Why She’s Awesome:
While most people lean towards Lizzy Bennet as their favorite Austen girl, I wanted to go for the more quiet Anne Elliot. She is quite prudent in her decisions about life, resulting in her giving up love in fear of it being the wrong decision. Anne is accomplished and intelligent in spite of not being quite the same fiery heroine as many of Austens other girls.

Here are just a few of the awesome women writers and characters. I could not include them all, and I also did miss some great ones created by men.

Who are some of your favorite female characters and/or writers? How are you celebrating International Women’s Day?

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Reading Challenge 13: A Book With a Female Heroine

I suppose I find the title to the challenge a little redundant, but  the idea behind it is great.I remember sitting in my women’s lit class and having one of the male students admit that he’d made a list of his top ten favorite books only to have a professor point out he had no female authors on it.I checked my own reads for this year and have read 28 female authors out of 51 books (54%). I suppose some of us are less aware than others about how gender might be represented in our author choices, or our protagonist choices.

Even in the modern world, sometimes there still seem to be a greater number of heroes than heroines out there. Just look at the top box office movies and witness the list of top grossing films this year and you’ll notice Avengers, Jurassic World, American Sniper, or even Minions (since these seem to be an exclusively male species?). The New York Times bestseller list shows a similar trend (currently, at least) with four out of the five top books featuring male protagonists, while only one features solely female (thanks Girl on the Train).

I’m not here to start a debate about the percentage of representation of females. I personally would continue to advocate for strong female leads in books and television and film. I’ll share an infographic below on the statistics, but it’s a bit too big for the main part of the blog.

For this challenge I decided to read a book I’d won in a Goodreads giveaway called The Repercussions by Catherine Hall. I chose it mostly because I was traveling and it was a light paperback that was easy to bring along. But I also chose it because it is about two strong female protagonists and was written by a female author. And that’s just what I needed to feel I’d completed the challenge to the utmost degree possible.

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The story revolves around the accounts of two different women. Jo has just returned from doing photography of the War in Afghanistan. She is suffering from PTSD and struggling to return to normal life. As she does so, she decides to read her great-grandmother’s accounts of living in India as a nurse, while also telling her own story in a written confession to her ex-lover.

I have to be honest in saying I didn’t love this book. There were elements I very much enjoyed, but I felt like the story really dragged and never fully connected with the two somewhat disjointed plots. I really enjoyed Jo as a character, though I found Elizabeth, her grandmother, much less compelling.

I did, however, think there were some elements of this story that were really well done, particularly in meeting this challenge. To me this was a great example of strong female literature. Jo is very self-sufficient, and she also wrestles with the struggles of the women she meets in Afghanistan. I’d recently finished The Kite Runner before reading this book, and it was an interesting comparison. I think I found Jo a little less inspiring simply because she was an outsider trying to tell someone else’s story. But at the same time, the book made the point that women all over the world suffer violence and abuse. It’s a global problem.

I can’t rave about this novel, that’s for sure. The writing felt a little clunky in places, and I think for me Elizabeth’s story just didn’t fit in quite as well as it maybe could have. But nonetheless this was a very interesting exploration of women’s issues, war, love, and different boundaries that keep people apart. If the plot sounds like something you’d be interested in then I’d recommend trying it out and seeing what you think for yourself! In the meantime, just keep supporting female representation in the media and female writers too!

Do you feel like there’s a problem with gender equality in media? I have shown some film stats below but couldn’t find book ones so if you have a great link please share it! Do you tend to read more female or male authors? Do you prefer male or female protagonists? Why do you think this is?

I will quickly admit this is 3 years old so it might be dated, but here are a few facts on film representation from the New York Film Academy. Sorry it’s not books, but I still felt like it was interesting and wanted to share!

 

 

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Moving Beyond Gendered Book Covers

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With all my research on publishing, one of the most interesting elements I’ve run across is the making of book covers. Whether we like it or not, we do tend to judge a book by its cover, and, as a result, the art on the front often determines whether or not we put the book back on the shelf or pick it up to read.

Just this morning I ran across an interesting article about the gender tones behind book covers, and how females books get passed off as romance novels (even if they are not) and therefore are considered for the less educated. Women are apparently more likely to get a paperback while their male counterparts get hardbound copies. This is a sad reality of the world we live in. Please feel free to read the article and I encourage you to watch the video that goes along with it: Coverflip: Maureen Johnson Calls For An End To Gendered Book Covers With An Amazing Challenge

I had never noticed this influence in my life before. I had never stopped to think how a woman’s book about the same subject matter often gets a female image on the cover, or slightly more feminine print for the title. I had never considered that I might subconsciously assume something about the books intended gender just from the images on the front. We live in a world where images are constantly being flashed in front of us, and I suppose books are no different. Sometimes we just need to stop and think.

And so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to examine title and the description more than the outside imagery of the book. Just because there is a female on the front doesn’t mean it’s filled with romance or other more “feminine” plot ideas. I hope in the future of our society we’ll begin to move away from having gendered covers. Men and women should be able to read and enjoy the same things.

As a future author I shudder at the idea of men putting my book aside simply because someone decided to slap something “girly” on my cover instead of something gender neutral. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean my ideas are any less valid or that I only want to write about females finding love. I want to go beyond that, and I hope that in the future book covers will help me and other authors finally conquer the idea that women’s writing is somehow worth less.

Any thoughts? What makes you more or less likely to pick up a book? Why do you think we do this to our book covers? Is there a good way to change this or do you think it should remain the same?

And school is finally done for summer so I should be able to get back to posting regularly. Thank you loyal readers for your patience!

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