Happy International Women’s Day!
Today, 8 March, is a date to celebrate the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women. It all began over a century ago and today it is observed all over the world. It is also a day to reflect on improving gender equality and for 2019 the theme is #BalanceforBetter.
At Brompton library, we have been celebrating the literary achievement of women with a series of book reviews. Since International Women’s Day in 2018, I have been doing regular reviews of books by inspirational female authors. In total I have read eleven books by eleven amazing female writers. It is hard to pick a favourite because the books are all so different and written in different styles.
I loved some of the books because of their subject matter or the worlds they created. There are the feminist dystopias of The Power, The Water Cure and Red Clocks which comment on gender equality in our own society. There is Helen Dunmore’s novel that explores how a female writer from the eighteenth century could be completely forgotten by history. Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood’s novels reimagine classic myths and fairy tales from a feminist perspective.
I found some of the books inspirational because of their authors. Such as Zadie Smith, who was published at a young age and has gone on to win many literary awards or Toni Morrison, who was the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Then there is Malala Yousafzai, who almost lost her life standing up for women’s rights.
Because the books are from different eras, it made me reflect on the journey of women’s rights. Roxane Gay’s essays are a funny and insightful look into the struggles of being a modern feminist, whereas Emily Bronte, who had to publish Wuthering Heights under a male pseudonym, is a reminder of how far we’ve come.
I hope you have been as inspired as me by these great reads! And I’m sure you can think of many more inspirational female authors to add to this list.
This month we have a double celebration! As well as the monthly review of a book by a female author to mark the centenary of votes for women, we are also celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emily Bronte’s birth on the 30th July. So it was a clear choice to pick Wuthering Heights to review for July.
Wuthering Heights is an intense story set in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors. It is about the wild and passionate love between Catherine and Heathcliff. They grow up together and years later Heathcliff returns to seek revenge on those he feels have wronged him. The dark tale has shocked and enthralled readers since it was published in 1847.
I first read Wuthering Heights years ago, but reading it again recently I was brought straight back to the haunting atmosphere. If you have already read it, I would recommend re-reading it as there is so much scope for analysis. For those that haven’t, the characters are iconic and the brooding mood of the book will stay with you long after you finish reading.
Emily Bronte is a fitting author for our inspirational women series as she illustrates the progress of women’s rights. When she first published a collection of poems with her sisters in 1846 they all had to use male pseudonyms; Emily’s was Ellis Bell. Wuthering Heights was also originally published as Ellis Bell but after her death her sister Charlotte republished it under Emily’s real name. Despite writing at a time when female authors were rare and would face prejudice, Emily Bronte wrote a powerful and imaginative novel that would become an English literary classic.
At Brompton Library we have created a display to celebrate Emily Bronte’s bicentenary, featuring of course Wuthering Heights, but also her poems, various non fiction books about her life and beautifully illustrated children’s books. So there is also a lot of further reading you can do to mark the 200 years since the birth of this inspirational woman.
You can see the previous reviews of inspirational women writers for June, May, April and March See you in August.
Philippa, Brompton Library