It’s happened, I’ve come to a point where the dam against my obsessive feminist passions has burst and now it must all spill forth onto this page. I’m sure upon seeing the title ‘Second-Wave Feminist Fiction’ most people will go ‘uuh..no thanks,’ as would I have, but these books aren’t rants against men or manifestos on the benefits of living bra-free. These are fantastic works of fiction which came from authors who spoke about and wrote on women’s issues and feminism in the mid-to-late 20th Century and onwards.
The three I have chosen here all follow a broad theme of sexuality, with Nin’s text being the most explicit by far. I think the ways in which female sexuality is explored and described in these texts is incredibly interesting – simply acknowledging its existence is a step forward from where we tend to still get stuck, culturally. Each of these is based in a reality somewhat shifted from our own (from Atwood’s horrifying, dystopian future to Carter’s world of fantasy and magic) which I think is rather telling in that these texts require a certain distance from the reader in order to gain their power and brilliant – is it possible the extreme distance of environment was necessary for readers to draw similarities to their own lives? Even if feminism isn’t quite your thing, each of these is still really quite a brilliant read. Continue reading →
Author of one of this year’s quieter success stories, Big Brother, Lionel Shriver is an author who I am still waiting to receive the explosive success and popularity that she has been due for decades. Publishing her first novel in 1986 it has only been in the last eight years or so that her work has been finally gaining some attention, but there’s always room for a few more readers. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read any of these books in three or four years but I still class some of them amongst my best loved and Shriver as one of my favourite authors. I will, of course, re-read some of these one day to refresh my memory and re-evaluate them in light of what I have learnt since my first reading but I remain confident that she is really quite brilliant and one of the smartest writers I’ve read. Her control of intricate and, on times, complex narratives bears incredible ease.
Virginia Woolf is a woman who always intimidated me; the sense of bourgeois exclusivity which surrounded her work made it seem somewhat unreachable to me. The opacity of her writing when I first picked up Between the Acts and failed to even realise it was all about the war left me defeated and quite ready to never pick up another of her books. I was resigned to knowing that I would never love Woolf, or Joyce, and that modernism was not for me. Now, years on, I have learnt to love Virginia Woolf and consider her to be one of my favourites. Not all of her work is baffling or abstract, a lot of it is incredibly beautiful and powerful. I shan’t go through the plot of each in detail because that isn’t really the point of her work. Consider reading Woolf to be an exploration of emotion. humanity and life rather than a plot.