Christine de Pizan and The Book of the City of Ladies: An Introduction

christine de pizan working on a book

Christine de Pizan (1364 – 1430) the French writer, is best known for her seminal work of literature by, about, and in support of women, Le Livre de la Cité des Dames (1405). Now known as The Book of the City of Ladies, it was first translated into English as The Boke of the Cyte of Ladyes and published in London in 1521, “in Paul’s churchyard at the sign of the Trinity by Henry Pepwell.”

This introduction to Christine de Pizan and The Book of the City of Ladies is excerpted fromKilling the Angel: Early Transgressive British Woman Writers by Francis Booth ©2021, reprinted by permission.

Pepwell’s printers in St Paul’s Churchyard published many of the new humanist works along with works of mysticism. In its English version, Christine’s message was well-timed and found a more receptive audience in Tudor Reformation England where printed books in English were leading to greater levels of education among women and creating in turn an appetite for books addressing women in English – Tyndale’s English language New Testament reached England in 1526. Read More→

Marching Through the Years: Revisiting Anna and the King of Siam 

Anna and the King of Siam - UK edition

When I was a girl, the only parts of grown-ups’ movies that I enjoyed were the parts with children in them. So, the first few times I watched the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical (based on the 1944 book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon) The King and I, only “The March of the Royal Siamese Children” appealed to me.

As an only child, families with more than one child seemed remarkable; the seemingly endless stream of offspring, parading through the court in this colorful musical number, fascinated me. And I was oblivious to the number of grown women—the mothers—also in attendance, felt no compulsion to multiply by nine, or to muse on multiple conceptions.

As a teenager, I accepted my discovery of Margaret Landon’s Anna and the King of Siam as the “true story,” just as I accepted that The Sound of Music was based on the well-worn paperback copies of Maria Augusta von Trapp’s memoirs that had long resided in my grandmother’s bookshelves. This is to say that I understood, in theory, there were real-life figures behind these musicals, but I preferred the song-and-dance inventions. Read More→

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)— a Timeless Tale

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett 2004 edition

Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849—1924) was a beloved, poet, playwright, and children’s book author. She penned more than forty novels, plays, and dozens of poems and short stories throughout her lifetime. She’s perhaps best remembered as the author of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, though her prolific output went far beyond these now-classic works.

The story of A Little Princess follows a young girl with a vivid imagination as she faces abandonment at a posh boarding school in London with a cruel headmistress. The novel is an expansion of Burnett’s novella, Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s Boarding School, first published in December 1887.

The riches-to-rags story was so successful that in 1902, Burnett adapted the story of Sara Crewe into a three-act stage play under the title, A Little Un-Fairy Princess. After a successful production of the play on Broadway, Burnett’s publisher urged her to expand the story of Sara Crewe into a full-length novel. Read More→

Margaret Landon, author of Anna and the King of Siam

Margaret Landon, suthor of Anna and the King of Siam

Famed for Anna and the King of Siam (1944), which inspired a variety of adaptations, including the musical “The King and I,” American writer Margaret Landon (September 7, 1903 – December 4, 1993) spent more than a decade studying Siam (now Thailand) and a lifetime writing about it.

Anna and the King of Siam was Margaret Landon’s crowning achievement. It sold over one million copies and has been translated into more than twenty languages. Based on the true story of Anna Leonowens, who served as governess to the King Mongkut, in the 19th century, it introduced Western readers to a world of Asian culture. Read More→

An Analysis of The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (1974)

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most influential science fiction and fantasy writers of the twentieth century. Her 1974 novel, The Dispossessed, was written as a political tale, with themes that include freedom and the corruption of capitalist societies. It won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in 1975.

Le Guin uses her novel as a moral principle of anarchism based on political theories and ideas of collective societies to challenge modes of radical thinking. Discussing these philosophies will determine if she was successful in delivering a convincing narrative that overcomes conflicting notions of a perfect society Read More→

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)

murder on the orient express original 1933 cover

Agatha Christie (1890—1976) was the most widely published and best-selling author of all time. She authored sixty-six crime novels and short story collections, fourteen plays, and six other romance novels. Murder on the Orient Express, an intricate crime fiction novel, is one of Christie’s greatest mystery novels featuring the illustrious Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Murder on the Orient Express was first published in the United Kingdom in 1934, and soon after in the United States, retitled Murder on the Calais Coach. Christie drew inspiration for the plot from recent headlines.

Around the time when Murder on the Orient Express was published, the murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son had yet to be solved. This real-life mystery, coupled with Christie’s first journey on the Orient Express in 1928, inspired the iconic detective story. Read More→

Gone With the Wind’s Melanie Wilkes, and the Woman Who Portrayed Her

Olivia De Havilland as Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind

It’s a talented fiction writer who can make you believe that she has written your story. And what if you’ve been named for a fictional heroine because your father loved her character traits? Then, it’s almost an umbilical cordlike connection that stays with you throughout your life. This is how I came to be named Melanie, after the character of Melanie Wilkes from Gone With the Wind.

My father had read the book in engineering college, when I was nowhere in the picture. He tucked the name away in his head for future use. After my birth, as is wont in families, many suggestions for names came up from family members. The name Melanie encountered a bit of resistance, being a Christian name in an Indian home, but my father stood his ground. Read More→

Glimpses into the Secret Diaries of Anne Lister (“Gentleman Jack”)

Anne Lister, aka Gentleman Jack

The fascinating and highly transgressive Englishwoman Anne Lister (1791 – 1840) of Shibden Hall in Yorkshire wasn’t a writer of published books, but was a committed diarist with a lot to write about. This introduction to the secret diaries of Anne Lister is excerpted from Killing the Angel: Early Transgressive British Woman Writers by Francis Booth ©2021, reprinted by permission.

Known in her local environs as “Gentleman Jack,” Lister’s enormous journals, only recently published, run to twenty six volumes and four million words – which possibly makes her in terms of word count one of the most prolific of woman writers in this book – but were never meant to be read by anyone.

These diaries, written primarily between 1817 and the mid-1820s, are partly in code to hide Lister’s lesbian sexuality. Once decoded, they are perfectly unambiguous, at least today. Read More→