Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery (1915)

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery is the third installment of the beloved series that follows Anne Shirley from her orphaned childhood through her years as college student, teacher, wife, and mother.

Anne of Green Gables, the first of this series by the beloved Canadian author, was published in 1908, was quickly followed by Anne of Avonlea in 1909.

Readers must have been eagerly awaiting more of Anne’s adventures, as, with a gap of six years, Anne of the Island didn’t appear until 1915 (though she did play a small role in Chronicles of Avonlea, 1912). Read More→

The Friendship & Correspondence of George Sand & Gustave Flaubert

Flaubert-Sand, the correspondence

The friendship and correspondence of George Sand (1804 – 1876) and Gustave Flaubert (1821 – 1880) form a fascinating and valuable chapter in literary history. 

Their letters are vignettes of the tumultuous time of the 1848 revolution, the Franco-Prussian War, and the fall of the Paris Commune. They’re also discussions of the challenges of writing, the world of theater and politics, and the whims of family and friends. 

In Flaubert-Sand, The Correspondence (1993), the late translators and researchers Francis Steegmuller and Barbara Bray opened this 19th-century world to readers. Presenting four hundred letters from earlier books, libraries, and private collections, this volume has extensive footnotes, excerpts from Sand’s diaries, and chronologies for context.   Read More→

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1961): Opposing Reviews

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Scottish-born Dame Muriel Spark (1918 – 2006) was a prolific novelist, short story writer, poet, and biographer. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) would become her best-known and most enduring work. Here are two opposing reviews of the novel from when it was first published.

The tale of a middle-aged Edinburgh schoolteacher was immortalized in the 1969 film starring a young Maggie Smith, now is considered a cinematic classic. It was also adapted as a Broadway play.

When the slim novel first came out, it received generally excellent reviews, but they weren’t universal, as you’ll see in the somewhat dour review that ran in the London Observer. Read More→

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (1922)

Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

The Enchanted April, the 1922 novel by the elusive Elizabeth Von Arnim, has stood the test of time as a journey of friendship and self-discovery.

Certain stories possess an irresistible charm that beckons readers to embark on captivating journeys of the heart and mind. Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel, The Enchanted April  is one such masterpiece, fueling the imagination and evoking a sense of wonder.

The Enchanted April is a lighthearted (yet not lightweight) tale of freedom to live an authentic life, and the transformative power of female friendship. This literary gem continues to engage readers even after a century, effortlessly weaving together picturesque landscapes, relatable characters, and heartfelt emotions. Read More→

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett: A Romantic Correspondence

Dared and Done - the Brownings

In 1844, Elizabeth Barrett’s second major collection of poems (A Drama of Exile) was published and warmly received. The work included lines that praised fellow poet Robert Browning.

Presented here are the two letters that started the correspondence and ignited the romantic literary love story of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett (who soon became Elizabeth Barrett Browning).

After reading the poems, Robert wrote a letter of thanks to Elizabeth on January 10, 1845, with the tantalizing line, “I love your verses with all my heart … and I love you, too.” Read More→

Muriel Spark, Author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Muriel Spark in 1960

Dame Muriel Spark (February 1, 1918 – April 13, 2006) was a Scottish novelist, short story writer, poet, and biographer.

Her novels were famous for their wit and style, and several have been adapted for film, television, and the stage. Her best-known work is the novelThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961).

Spark was quite prolific — in a nearly fifty-year career she wrote twenty-two novels, several collections of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. She has been recognized as one of the greatest British writers. Read More→

Xingu — a Short Story by Edith Wharton (1916; full text)

Xingu and Other Stories by Edith Wharton

Xingu by Edith Wharton (1862 – 1937), a longform short story, satirizes a snobby ladies’ literary lunch group in the early 1900s. It was first published in Xingu and Other Stories (1916) and is a fairly rare occasion in which Wharton’s sly sense of humor is on display.

The six pretentious, competitive women invite a famous author as a guest to visit their group, with unexpected results. Whereas the guests assume that the author is there to discuss her latest novel, she insists on only discussing another work — Xingu.

The ladies of the group feign knowing the work and insist they’ve studied it — but did they really? Xingu, reprinted in full here, is in the public domain. Long paragraphs have been broken up for easier viewability on devices. 

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Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas

Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life audiobook cover

Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life: Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way by Nava Atlas (2011) is now available as an audiobook (updated and expanded) produced by Blackstone Publishing (2023).

The desire to put pen to paper has been described by many writers as an obsession that can’t be denied. Perhaps best expressed by author Anaïs Nin, who writes, “You write out of a deep inner necessity. If you are a writer, you have to write, just as you have to breathe…”

In Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing LifeNava Atlas presents a treasury of intimate glimpses into the unfolding writing process across fifteen brilliant careers in women’s literature and relates their struggles, striving, and successes to those experienced by women writers today. 

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