Alliance of Sisters: The Complex Relationship of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell

Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell as children

Sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell collaborated artistically, influenced each other’s work, shared friends, and were central figures in the Bloomsbury Group. They were also at the heart of one another’s family stories.

Their relationship was a deep and unusual one: powerful, interdependent, with unsettling periods of jealousy and hostility, yet characterized by mutual support and devotion throughout their lives.  Virginia was one of the most influential English authors of the twentieth century; Vanessa was a noted painter.

The sisters lived close to one another until Virginia’s death in 1941. Infusing both her writing and her life, it was the relationship that influenced Virginia more than any other except that with her husband, Leonard Woolf. Read More→

10 Unforgettable Books by South African Women Authors

The long journey of Poppie Nongena by Elsa Joubert

Presented here is a survey of ten unforgettable books by South African women authors, including novels, narrative nonfiction, poetry, and more. 

From The Story of an African Farm set in the nineteenth century to Circles in a Forest from the Knysna forests, South Africa has long been an interesting place for authors to situate fiction and nonfiction.

Rich with history and exploring both the good and evil in humanity, works from Southern Africa can take the reader on an unforgettable journey through space and time. Read More→

Ingrid Jonker, South African Poet and Anti-Apartheid Activist

Ingrid Jonkers - Black Butterflies

Ingrid Jonker (September 19, 1933 – July 19, 1965) was a South African poet and founder of the emerging counterculture literary movement. The daughter of a Member of Parliament for the National Party, her views and work strongly opposed the apartheid government of the time.

Jonker has been compared to some of the most iconic modern female artists and poets, including Sylvia Plath. Her poetry, written in Afrikaans, has been more recently translated into English, as well as German, Dutch, French, PolishHindi, and other languages.

Jonker’s poem, “The child who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga” was recited by Nelson Mandela on May 24, 1994, signifying the past impact and end of the Apartheid-regime. Read More→

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery — Two 1926 Reviews

The blue castle by L.M. Montgomery

L.M. Montgomery (1874 – 1942), the Canadian author best known for her Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series, wrote just two novels intended for adults — A Tangled Web (1931) and The Blue Castle (1926). Presented here are two reviews from the year of the book’s initial publication.

Now in the public domain, The Blue Castle has been published and republished in numerous editions in print and audio. While the book may not be as beloved as Montgomery’s more famous series, it did make its mark.

For the first time, the story is being adapted for film. It’s hard to say when (or ultimately if) it will be released, but here’s the news of its potential adaptation. Read More→

Five Novels by Carson McCullers: Classic Southern Gothic Fiction

Carson McCullers complete novels

Presented here is an overview of five novels by Carson McCullers (1917 – 1967), representing her body of long form fiction. Though known primarily for these books, she also wrote two plays, a number of short stories, children’s poetry, and other works.

Carson McCullers has earned a place among classic southern writers, along with William FaulknerFlannery O’Connor, and Tennessee Williams. Following each brief overview of these major works is a link to more in-depth reviews or analyses.

Most of McCullers’ work is set in the American South, centering on characters who struggle with loneliness and isolation. Her writing is associated with the genre known as Southern Gothic, defined by the Oxford Research Encyclopedia: Read More→

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers (1941)

reflections in a golden eye novel 1941

Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941) by Carson McCullers suffered a fate common to sophomore efforts that follow hugely successful first novels. Just twenty-three when her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, came out the year before (1940),  it established her as a literary wunderkind.

Reflections in a Golden Eye, conversely, received mostly poor reviews, critics unsure of what to make of the young author’s use of the literary device termed “the grotesque” in fiction — a hallmark of fellow Southern author Flannery O’Connor and others.

McCullers’ work was primarily associated with the genre of Southern Gothic, which the Oxford Research Encyclopedia defines as follows:  “Characteristics of Southern Gothic include the presence of irrational, horrific, and transgressive thoughts, desires, and impulses; grotesque characters; dark humor, and an overall angst-ridden sense of alienation.”

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Proto-Zionist Themes in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda

Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

Daniel Deronda (1876), the last novel completed by British author George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans, 1819 – 1880), is widely regarded as a proto-Zionist work, and one of the first works of literature sympathetic to Jews in 19th-century Britain. 

Like many of George Eliot’s novels, Daniel Deronda is considered a masterpiece. The examination of the novel’s Jewish themes presented here is from George Eliot by Mathilde Blind. Eliot wasn’t Jewish, but as this essayist points out:

“When she undertook to write about the Jews, George Eliot was deeply versed in Hebrew literature, ancient and modern. She had taught herself Hebrew when translating the Leben Jesu, and this knowledge stood her in good stead.” Read More→

10 Iconic Poems by Amy Lowell, American Imagist Poet

Amy Lowell

It’s not easy to choose a few of best or most famous poems by Amy Lowell (1874 – 1925), the influential American imagist poet. She was quite prolific, so choosing just ten iconic poems from her vast trove to represent her large body of work is no easy task.

The poems presented here are among Lowell’s most iconic and anthologized. She defined Imagist poetry as the “concentration is of the very essence of poetry” which aimed to “produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.”

Amy Lowell was also a practitioner of “vers libre,” or free verse poetry (here’s the poet herself on vers libre). Her contemporary reconsideration reflects her rediscovery as a lesbian poet (“A Decade”), and she was also an antiwar poet (“Patterns”) of some distinction. Read More→