The Classic Club have come up with a new reading challenge – one that makes me want to squeal with glee – it is a challenge that speaks right to the heart of what I love most to read; The Women’s Classic Literature event. Read more about this event here.
The event starts right now – and continues right through to December 2016. Now some of you may say that this is not much of a challenge for me – as I read so many classic women already. So the challenge for me is to read more. To read essays, biographies and memoirs too (as I read far less of those and they all count for this challenge – even modern written biographies if they concern a classic woman writer).
The Classic Club shared a quote from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own – which is wonderful.
“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques–literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.”
That brings me to the next part of my personal challenge, as well as reading the many books by women already on my list – I want to concentrate particularly on these writers.
Virginia Woolf – I have talked before about my difficult relationship with her in the past – which I hope I have overcome. I intend to make A Room of One’s Own my first read for this challenge – (if I can fit it in before my 1924 books).
Margaret Oliphant – I have all the books of her Carlingford Chronicles – but I have only read the first one (very good) though as the others are so big I keep passing them by.
Willa Cather – an author I love – I have read many of her books already I want to read the rest and her letters (which I have yet to acquire) and short stories.
Sylvia Townsend Warner – I have read three of her novels to date and want to read the rest, she is someone I used to be daunted by – now she merely impresses and fascinates me.
The Classic Club have also posted a little questionnaire for those of us taking part in the challenge – regular readers please indulge me as I answer them for other classic clubbers.
1. Introduce yourself. Tell us what you are most looking forward to in this event.
I’m Ali (most of you know that) and I am particularly looking forward to this event because quite simply it fits right into what I like to read most.
2. Have you read many classics by women? Why or why not?
Lots and lots, too many to count – many I even re-read or intend to re-read. There are so many great women writers of the past many rather over-looked now who I keep discovering.
3. Pick a classic female writer you can’t wait to read for the event, & list her date of birth, her place of birth, and the title of one of her most famous works.
Virginia Woolf 1882- 1941– To the Lighthouse, Mrs Dalloway, Orlando. I will be starting soon with A Room of one’s Own. VW is someone I have always thught I should love, but struggled a little with, I didn’t get on that well with The Lighthouse when I first read it many years ago. Since then I read (and quite liked) Mrs Dalloway and then this year finally read and loved two VW novels Orlando and The Voyage Out. Maybe finally I have found my VW mojo I hope to re-read The Lighthouse and move on to some others and maybe some of her essays which I have heard great things about.
4. Think of a female character who was represented in classic literature by a male writer. Does she seem to be a whole or complete woman? Why or why not? Tell us about her. (Without spoilers, please!)
Marian Halcomb – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I love her because she’s strong and intelligent, brave and resourceful – unfortunately and perhaps typically for the Victorian period the novel comes from Marian is not allowed to be desirable or attractive – it’s as if she’s an honorary man – the desirable, marriageable women have to be delicate, fluffy and in need of protection. That is irritating.
5. Favorite classic heroine? (Why? Who wrote her?)
Helen Graham from the Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte – I love her and that novel so much, she’s a strong feminist character, and the novel shocked society in 1848.
6. We’d love to help clubbers find great titles by classic female authors. Can you recommend any sources for building a list?
Virago Modern Classics are perfect for this challenge and I read many of them. I found this list on Goodreads which have 178 fantastic titles on it.
7. Recommend three books by classic female writers to get people started in this event.
1. The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton, a fantastic American classic
2. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – my favourite ever book
3. South Riding – Winifred Holtby – a favourite modern classic which is very readable and just brilliant.
8. Will you be joining us for this event immediately, or will you wait until the new year starts?
Oh immediately, of course, why wait?
9. Do you plan to read as inspiration pulls, or will you make out a preset list?
I will read mainly as inspiration calls me – though I will concentrate on the books already on my cc list. There are many women already there – so I have enough to keep me busy.
10. Are you pulling to any particular genres? (Letters, journals, biographies, short stories, novels, poems, essays, etc?)
I mainly read novels, but yes there will be almost certainly be letters, essays and maybe a biography or two – lovely to be able to read across genres for this challenge.
11. Are you pulling to a particular era or location in literature by women?
I do especially love women’s writing from the first half of the twentieth century – although I have enjoyed many nineteenth century works – that is probably where my heart lies.
12. Do you hope to host an event or readalong for the group? No worries if you don’t have details. We’re just curious!
No plans as yet – but it’s always a possibility.
13. Is there an author or title you’d love to read with a group or a buddy for this event? Sharing may inspire someone to offer.
I think I would love a Virginia Woolf group read – as she is a writer I want to concentrate on.
14. Share a quote you love by a classic female author — even if you haven’t read the book yet.
“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”
From Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
15. Finally, ask the question you wish this survey had asked, & then answer it.
My question: Who are your current favourite classic women writers? Your must read list?
I love Austen and the Brontes, but my other more modern favourites are: Elizabeth Taylor, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth von Arnim, Barbara Pym and Rosamond Lehmann.