Passing by Nella Larsen (1929) has staked an important place as a classic fictional work of race, class, sexuality, and identity. Thematically similar, The White Girl by Vera Caspary, a white Jewish novelist and screenwriter, was published earlier that same year and is all but forgotten.
This analysis of how this now-obscure novel relates to Nella Larsen’s enduring classic is excerpted from the forthcoming A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Novels of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth:
In a career spanning 1929 to 1979, prolific novelist and screenwriter Vera Caspary wrote a series of compelling strong and amoral women. Her two most famous titular anti-heroines – Laura and Bedelia – were turned into successful Hollywood films of the noir genre in the 1940s. Read More→
The Death of the Heart (1938) by Elizabeth Bowen is in many ways a traditional English 1930s novel, and a comedy of manners — the manners of pre-war, upper-middle-class London which Bowen (1899 – 1973) knew well. This analysis of The Death of the Heart is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.
The Death of the Heart is a coming-of-age novel, and its heroine, Portia Quayne, undoubtedly belongs in the literary realm of adolescent girls and their sexual experiences.
Portia does, in her way, come of age in the course of the story though she does not have the novel to herself. She is just one of a cast of unappealing characters examined in forensic detail by the witty, sardonic, and ruthless Bowen in this darkly witty chamber piece. Read More→
Fanny Burney, the British novelist and playwright best remembered for her first novel, Evelina (1778) was also an immensely prolific diarist. This introduction to the journals of Fanny Burney is excerpted from Killing the Angel: Early British Transgressive Women Writers ©2021 by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission.
It has been argued that the diary is essentially a feminine form of writing; certainly, at one time writing a diary was far more likely to be done by a woman of a certain class than by a man.
Diaries are written for an audience of one though Fanny (Frances) Burney (1752 – 1840), later a wildly successful novelist, wrote in the first pages of her diary in 1768 that hers was for an audience of none. Her JUVENILE JOURNAL: ADDRESSED TO A CERTAIN MISS NOBODY, sets out to be: Read More→
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. Read More→
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→