Blog category: Book Reviews
The first novel by Fanny Fern, otherwise known as Sara Payson Willis, is a semi-autobiographical tale of a talented writer who loses her husband and is forced to support herself and two young children in the mid-1800s. She states in her preface that Ruth Hall is not a novel, preferring the term “continuous story”. She wrote at variance with the traditional themes and styles of the time and therefore received her share of criticism for it. However she also had supporters. Notably, Nathaniel Hawthorne hoped that Fern’s writing would encourage her female contemporaries to follow her example and “throw off the constraints of decency…then their books are sure to possess character and value.” Continue reading .
The Female Quixote is the story of Arabella who has lived in seclusion all her life. With only her recluse father and a mountain of old romances as companions, Arabella grows up thinking that the world of her books is the world that she lives in. All is fine and good in her quiet abode until her uncle and cousins arrive and she is thrown into society. You can hardly imagine the trouble she gets into. Any man riding a horse is a probable ravisher. Any gardener with a literate accent is a man in disguise intending to carry her away. A small argument between two young men will no doubt turn into a bloody duel over the affections of a lady. Continue reading .
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen was first published 200 years ago in 1811. Here at Girlebooks we commemorate its bicentenary with the release a fully annotated and illustrated edition available in the ebook store. A foreword, annotations, biography, bibliography and notes on further reading are by AustenBlog’s Margaret C. Sullivan. Illustrations are by the talented Cassandra Chouinard. Continue reading .
This is a captivating story about love and tea. It is told from the point of view of the titular character, Ida Mae, a divorcee grandmother living in Ohio. As the story opens she is waiting for her best friend since she was 10 years old, Jane, to arrive for tea. Jane and Ida Mae have always been complete opposites–Ida Mae being the quiet homebody and Jane the bustling actress. But their friendship works. They complete each other, perhaps more than the various lovers and spouses that entered the two women’s lives over the decades. In this first scene we learn some devastating news: that Jane has cancer and has only a few weeks left. Continue reading .
As in Frankenstein Mary Shelley shows herself as a sci-fi pioneer and visionary with enough political savvy to know that the strife between Christian and Muslim would not be resolved even two hundred years into the future. Mary Shelley’s gifted use of the English language was perhaps better in this work than in Frankenstein. Also to her credit, Shelley, perhaps because of her many tragic experiences, quite accurately captures and expresses the angst of mourning. The Last Man is not Frankenstein, but if you have the patience to read it, you will find its mysterious makeup rather interesting. Continue reading .
Belinda, first published in 1801, is the story of a young woman who comes of age amid the distractions and dangers of London society. From her stays at both the extravagant, aristocratic Delacours and the sober, rational Percivals, she molds her views on love and marriage and much more. Belinda learns from the mistakes of others (and many does she witness) rather than rashfully committing the mistakes herself. From her tutelage by Lady Delacour and the Percivals, we see Belinda grow from a confused little girl into a confident young lady that is admired and eventually depended upon by all. In love, her suitors find they must grow and prove their worth to her, rather than the reverse. Continue reading .
This is a lovely collection of short stories by Emily C. A. Snyder, author of another Austen-themed publication Nachtstürm Castle. This time around Snyder treats us to two different styles of paraliterature that draw upon all six of Jane Austen’s novels as inspiration. Part I: Heroes and Histories captures the behind-the-scenes moments of Austen’s original works. In Part II: Types and Trifles, Snyder runs with her imagination, taking on various “what-ifs” to hilarious results. Continue reading .
Deena Stryker’s memoir is An American Woman’s Journey from the Cold War to the Arab Spring. Highlights include her stint as Fellini’s press officer during the shooting of the film 8 1/2, journalistic adventures in Cuba where she held informal conversations with all the members of government including Fidel, Raul and Che, and five years behind the real Iron Curtain where she started a family. Not only a professional journey but a deeply personal exploration, you will learn some history while Stryker engrosses you in her narrative. Continue reading .
First published in 1850, Olive is a variant on the story of Jane Eyre. The titular character is not an orphan, but she suffers from a physical deformity that acts as a similar social impediment. Olive grows up sheltered, thinking nothing is wrong with her. However when her overprotective nursemaid dies, it is a great shock to her to know that she is not attractive to men and will probably never marry. Even though Olive is determined to support herself and be happy in spite of her hardships, she eventually does find love in a very unlikely person. Continue reading .
Readers looking for more Brontë after consuming Emily’s and Charlotte’s work often turn to the less famous sister, Anne. One common theme among these readers is surprise that Anne is as good or even better than her sisters. Agnes Grey, Anne’s first novel, is sweet and impeccably constructed. However The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is her stronger novel. While also impeccably written, much of this novel is not sweet. Its strong points lie in the gutsy portrayal of taboo and uncomfortable subjects such as alcoholism and marital strife. Continue reading .