The Penguin Women Writers Series & Forgotten Women’s Books We Love

 We love Virago, Persephone, and the Feminist Press–and now Penguin is publishing a Women Writers Series!  I read in The Guardian that the Booker Prize-winning writer Penelope Lively and Booker-shorlisted writer Kamila Shamsie chose the first four titles.

Lively selected two of my personal favorites, Mary McCarthy’s 1971 satire, Birds of America, which  skewers both American innocence and hypocrisy at home and abroad, and E. Nesbit’s adult novel, The Lark, a charming comedy about two women who start a flower business.  (I wrote about these two novels here and here.)  And Kamila Shamsie recommended two books I look forward to reading, Sara Suleri’s Meatless Days, a memoir, and Ismat Chughtai’s Lifting the Veil, a collection of essays.

Reading the article made me think about great women’s books I’d like to see revived.

I love Nancy Hale:  her engrossing  novel Dear Beast (1959),  a kind of tougher American version of D. E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book; and her two brilliant memoirs, A New England Girlhood, about growing up the daughter of two artists, and Life in the Studio, a memoir of her parents inspired by the relics she found while clearing out their studios after their deaths.

Hale was the first woman reporter for The New York Times and a frequent contributor of short stories and autobiographical pieces to The New Yorker.  She was the daughter of two painters, Philip L. Hale and Lilian Westcott Hale; the granddaughter of Edward Everett Hale, author of The Man Without a Country; the great-niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and Lucretia Peabody Hale (The Peterkin Papers); and a descendant of Nathan Hale.  All her books are out-of-print.

And I know you-all read a lot of women’s books, too.   What books merit a second look?

11 thoughts on “The Penguin Women Writers Series & Forgotten Women’s Books We Love

  1. Oh, I love The Lark. I read a lot of Persephone, Virago and Women’s Press books. I’d say Barbara Comyns is due another push forward, she’s so amazing and dark and weird. And Stevie Smith.

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  2. I can’t add to your list, but you’ve just added substantially to mine. I hadn’t seen this announcement but will go and look out the books straight away. The very look of them makes me want copies. And Nancy Hale is a completely new name to me, although the title, A New England Girlhood rings a bell.

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  3. Gotta bring in the Russian angle, of course! Karolina Pavlova’s 1848 novel “A Double Life,” written half in prose and half on poetry, is an absolute must-read if you can find it–the one English translation that I know of is out of print but you can still find copies here and there. I really hope a second translation or at least reprint happens soon…hmmm, project?

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    • Oh, thank you for this recommendation, because I would never have heard of her otherwise. Off to see if I can find an inexpensive copy…

      On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 5:31 AM, mirabile dictu wrote:

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  4. I am glad to hear of the new women’s books series. One must do this or live with 90% of what’s published or filmed by and focusing on male points of view — which are quite different from men’s. I much enjoyed Gerta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, a new movie, unusual for its focus on a girl, but if you thought about it, what she did was present the trajectory of a boy’s life with a girl at the center. The one difference was the relationship with the mother but even there it was a reverse father-son because the focus was on ambition alone.

    I’d like to see books written in ordinary language which present the psychology of women, there are good reading one by Carol Gilligan, Mikel Lyn Brown, Michelle Fine. Many more memoirs and from earlier periods; more books of letters, travel books. You might not be surprised to know that many women I meet haven’t read Woolf’s A room of One’s Own; it is in print of course — kept there by the inheritors of Hogarth Press. A personal favorite novel: Christina Stead, a great novel, The Man who Loved Children.

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    • Yes, it is strange about women’s books: you and I read them widely, but there are so many neglected women’s classics, and I suppose these days Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own isn’t stocked in every bookstore. (It was when I was young!). I do admire Stead. And I was thrilled to see Library of America has published two volumes of Mary McCarthy’s fiction. She is long overdue for a revival!

      On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 6:24 AM, mirabile dictu wrote:

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  5. Pingback: StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany – Stuck in a Book

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