“Girlitude” Week! When You Just Have to Read Women’s Lit

Girlitude tennant 41EAVSQVDPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Why is it Girlitude Week?

It’s a whim.  I’ve long meant to read Emma Tennant’s memoir, Girlitude:  A Portrait of the 50s and 60s. I very much enjoyed her comic science fiction novel,  The Crack, in which a group of very colorful Londoners try to survive when a large crack appears in the Thames. Tennant has also written “sequels” to Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, which I assume pay the bills.

And I feel like a general binge on women’s books anyway, so I went to a suburban library   to check out a few novels by D. E. Stevenson.

Yes, we’re going to be thoroughly womanly around here.    My cousin the librarian, who very much sports “grrrrl-attitude,” also plans to participate in “Girlitude Week,” even though we just invented it today. She is reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, a time travel-romance and loving it. And she doesn’t see why I don’t read Gabaldon too.  I have tried.  It’s very enjoyable, but…  Someday.

katherine wentworth stevenson 9f420818217a6ff62d0f455954538605SO WHAT AM I READING NOW?  I amdeeply engrossed in D. E. Stevenson’s charming, magical novel, Katherine Wentworth.  Katherine, a widow, struggles to raise her teenage stepson Simon and twins Deni and Daisy in Edinborough after their father dies.  Everything is going along very well until Simon gets a letter from his grandfather informing him that he is his heir.. Since he  has never acknowledged his late son Gerald’s family, Katherine distrusts him. She doesn’t think Gerald would have approved.  She is very uncomfortable on a visit to his house, and I am, too.  Katherine would rather see Simon go into business with his school friend, as he had previously planned to.  But everything will come out all right:  that is the joy  of D. E. Stevenson.

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MOVING FROM LEFT TO RIGHT.

Yonnondio olsen 51QIefHk7XL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Tillie Olsen’s Yonnondio: From the Thirties. Olsen, one of the most lauded American writers of the twentieth century, is the author  two other brilliant books,  Tell Me a Riddle, a stunning short story collection (“I Stand Here Ironing” is often anthologized), and Silences, a study of one-book authors.  She began writing Yonnondio in the 1930s and put it together from scraps of manuscript in the 1970s.  According to the jacket copy, it “follows the heartbreaking path of the Holbrook family in the late 1920s and the Great Depression as they move from the coal mines of Wyoming to a tenant farm in western Nebraska, ending up finally on the kill floors of the slaughterhouses and in the wretched neighborhoods of the poor in Omaha, Nebraska”

Laurie Colwin’s Passion and Affect, a collection of short stories.  Colwin was brilliant and funny and wrote some of the wittiest comedies of manner I have read, including Family Happiness, which I wrote about here, and her cookbook, Home Cooking, a collection of her columns from Gourmet magazine.  I reread her books at least once a year.  They are brilliant literature as well as comfort reads.

Passion and Affect Laurie Colwin 51qvYK5nAuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Janet Kauffman’s Collaborators. You are in for a great treat if you’ve never heard of Kauffman.  She won the PEN Faulkner Award for her beautifully-written  short novel, Collaborators.

Andrea is proud of her mother, a not-too-devout Mennonite, but everything changes when the mother suffers a stroke.

collaborators kauffman 9780224026130-usAnita Desai, who has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times,  is one of my favorite writers, I am eagerly looking forward to reading better copy desai fire on the mountain $_35Fire on the Mountain.    Alas, it is the only one I haven’t read.

The jacket copy says,

Gone are the days when Nanda Kaul watched over her family and played the part of Vice-Chancellor’s wife. Leaving her children behind in the real world, the busier world, she has chosen to spend her last years alone in the mountains in Kasauli, in a secluded bungalow called Carignano.

Until one summer her great-granddaughter Raka is dispatched to Kasauli and everything changes. Nanda is at first dismayed at this break in her preciously acquired solitude. Fiercely taciturn, Raka is, like her, quite untamed. The girl prefers the company of apricot trees and animals to her great-grandmother’s, and spends her afternoons rambling over the mountainside. But the two are more alike than they know. Throughout the hot, long summer, Nanda’s old, hidden dependencies and wounds come to the surface, ending, inevitably, in tragedy.

And I am already halfway through Maureen Howard’s complicated Rags of Time, the fourth novel in her Seasons quartet .  Stunning writing, the complicated relationship between an aging writer and the characters in her books, whom we have met in the earlier books. Intriguing and beautifully written.

rags of time howard8197912

I’ll let you know how it works our.  Expect six or more Women’s Lit posts in the next week!

17 thoughts on ““Girlitude” Week! When You Just Have to Read Women’s Lit

  1. What fun! Sometimes it just has to be women’s lit – look forward to hearing about what you and your cousin read!

  2. I do not enter into bloggers’ “events” or “schemes” or “challenges”, but this idea of “Girliitude” Week is quite appealing as is your book choice. But then I like most of the books you read and review. “The Rags of Time” seems wonderful, with the Desai (but I like Desai’s writing), and the Colwin. Please, tell us about the DE Stevenson. I had such a horrible experience with her fans who are true fanatics!

    • Oh, I’m not trying to organize an event! I just impulsively decided I felt like reading women’s lit. Oh, the DESSIES! Some Stevensons are better than others: my favorites are the Mrs. Tim books. Really, I should join the DESSIES. I bowed out of several of my Yahoo groups a few years ago and now Yahoo says I don’t exist and my email isn’t real!

      • Same here with Yahoo. I cannot read Ellen’s listservs anymore.
        The DESSIES are too fanatic for me – not only fan but true fanatics. I cannot take DES as seriously as they do. And I told them. And would again. I dislike (read “hate”) all kinds of fanaticism.
        I would not take part in any event and I would not be able to do it. But the idea of “girlattitude”and women’s reading is a good theme and a good idea. 🙂

        • LOL! The DESSIES must be very intense. Some of Stevenson’s books are good, many are really not. They have reprinted some in recent years, but the others are hugely expensive at Amazon. Those fans must be willing to pay $50 or more. Heavens, I get mine for $1 at sales!

  3. There’s a sense in which I never read anything else but Girlitude — not literally true (ever reading Trollope), but I’m with Deborah in Gaskell’s Cranford: women are not as good or should be equal with men; they are superior and their characteristic art is too. That said, I found Gabaldon too much on the trash end; in the second book she loses all critical sense of time overloads the Frank Yerby stuff. She begins well in her first, an improvement out of DuMaurier but she hasn’t in her the core of vision (genuine, authentic) that fuelled DuMaurier. The mini-series in the first season was far superior (in the way of the mini-series Love for Lydia over Bates’s excellent book) but descriptions of the second make me wonder if it too lost the path.

    Chantal Thomas’s books are excavations into Girlitude — her historical novel personating one of the women of Marie Antoinette’s court is known in English (Adieu my queen) but there are others as fine and revelatory and satisfying. I love her Real Life of Little Girls, and Souffrir (On Suffering — I don’t remember the English title)

    Like Sixtine, I can’t enter into these schemes for prompting writing and making oneself visible in the social media blogs. Emma Tennant is an interesting person; I had not realized she is Scottish; she wrote a Jane Austen sequel that was not bad. This is the first I’ve heard of D.E. Stevenson. Thank you. You are as good as the WRofB for introducing us to new good books by women we’d never hear of otherwise.

    • Oh, I just felt like reading a lot of women’s lit. I’ve never heard of Chantal Thomas. D. E. Stevenson wrote light romances and some charming comedies: my favorites are the Mrs. Tim books, written in diary form.

  4. The only DE Stevenson I’ve read is the very amusing Diary of a Provincial Lady and the two sequels which were fun but not quite as charming. It reminded me a bit of Mapp and Lucia by EF Bensen. I may have to acquire more. My local library doesnt have much more than the latest Danielle Steele or Norah Roberts.
    Trivia: EF Bensen bought Henry James’ Lamb House after he died….

    • Your library sounds like mine! We do have several branch libraries, though, and each one has a slightly different selection. But probably at least ten shelves are devoted to Danielle Steele. ONe wonders why they never get discarded.

      I didn’t know that about E. F. Benson! I do really love his Lucia books.

  5. My husband and I are heading out from Wisconsin to Alaska for a 10 day RV ramble and my biggest worry is what books to take! Should I read Les Mis or take a couple Zola or The Three Musketeers and sequels! Being caught in the bush without a book, what a horror!

    • Wow, Alaska! That would be fun. Take a variety. You don’t want to get stucck..Gosh, I’ve always wanted to read The Three Musketeers.

  6. Sort of off topic but written by a woman, I’m reading Bedelia which I can’t believe my library had. The copy is from 1945 with an ad for war bonds on the cover. Thanks to you, Kat for the review.

    I need to reread Colwin.

    • Oh, you have one of the best libraries in the country! Amazing about the 1945 copy Those old copies are gone, gone, gone here. Isn’t Colwin the greatest?

  7. The 3 Musketeers is actually the 1st of a trilogy, except the 3rd one is published in 3 volumes in English and the last volume is The Man in the Iron Mask. It’s a great story if you put the time into it.

    • Perhaps I’ll get to it this summer. I have an enormous hardback translated by Richard Pevear, who lives in France and has also translated several Russian novels with his wife. I just wish it were a lighter paperback!

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