This analysis of Summer by Edith Wharton, a 1917 novella of the coming of age of Charity Royall, a small-town girl, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.
The slim novel was one of Wharton’s personal favorites. She called it the “hot Ethan,” referring to her 1911 novella, Ethan Frome. It’s unclear if she was speaking of the book’s setting in the summer season, Charity’s sexual awakening, or both.
Unusually for Edith Wharton (1862–1937), best known for her novels of patrician Gilded-Age New York like The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, this novella is set in a tiny New England town close to ‘the Mountain,’ from which Charity Royall has been brought down as a baby by lawyer Royall, as he is universally known, and his wife, who is dead before the story begins. Read More→
Charlotte Lennox (c. 1730 – 1804), née Barbara Charlotte Ramsay, was an English novelist, playwright, and poet best remembered for her 1752 novel, The Female Quixote. This introduction to her life and work is excerpted from Killing the Angel: Early Transgressive British Woman Writers by Francis Booth ©2021, reprinted by permission.
Charlotte had a peripatetic early life. Born in Gibraltar, the daughter of a Scottish captain in the British Army, she lived her first ten years in England before moving to Albany in New York, where her father was Lieutenant Governor.
After her father’s death in 1742, Charlotte remained in New York with her mother until, at age thirteen, she was sent to London to a companion to her aunt. Her aunt, however, seems to have been mentally unstable, so Charlotte became companion to the unmarried courtier Lady Isabella Finch, cousin of the poet Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea. Read More→
Many women authors have been criticized and even ostracized for their writing but very few have been arrested for it. The New Atalantis by Delarivier Manley (1709) was considered so scandalous that its publisher, printer and author were all arrested for scandalum magnatum.
This introduction to the best-known work by Delarivier Manley (1663 – 1724) is excerpted from Killing the Angel: Early Transgressive British Woman Writers by Francis Booth ©2021, reprinted by permission.
Manley herself considered that it was her gender that most upset the censors; in the follow-up book The Adventures of Rivella, 1714, she says, very much as Aphra Behn had said earlier: Read More→
This analysis of Novel on Yellow Paper by Stevie Smith (1936) is excerpted from Amongst Those Left by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission.
‘This book is the talking voice that runs on, and the thoughts come, the way I said, and the people come too, and come and go, to illustrate the thoughts, to point the moral, to adorn the tale.’
Born Florence Margaret Smith, in Kingston Upon Hull, England, Stevie Smith (1902 – 1971) is now better known and loved as a poet than as a novelist. All her novels were written relatively early in her life and are all unconventional. Smith was brought up, along with her sister, by her feminist aunt Madge Spear, whom she called ‘The Lion Aunt’ and with whom she lived all her life. Read More→
This analysis of Rumer Godden’s 1956 novel, An Episode of Sparrows, features its tenacious young heroine, Lovejoy Mason. Excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.
Growing up in the colonial era, like the family in Rebecca West’s The Fountain Overflows are the sisters Bea and Harriet in The River, 1946, set in what was then Bengal by Rumer Godden (1907–1998), who herself grew up partly in India. Like many of the girls in these semi-autobiographical novels, Harriet wants to be a writer when she grows up. Read More→