mirabile dictu

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?