Olive Schreiner, Author of The Story of an African Farm

Olive Schreiner, South African author

Olive Schreiner (March 24, 1855 – December 11, 1920) was a South African author and activist best known for her debut novel The Story of an African Farm, first published in 1883 under the pseudonym Ralph Iron. It later appeared in 1891, credited to the author’s real name.

The Story of an African Farm dealt with themes like feminism, family life, and Victorian culture. Olive drew from personal experience, having worked as a governess on several South African farms. The book became notable (and controversial) for rejecting traditional values and was an immediate bestseller.

She was also a prolific letter-writer, corresponding with many great minds like Emily Hobhouse. Olive remained involved in many political and social causes of the time, including the right to vote for South African women. Read More→

George Eliot: Writing as Only a Woman Could

Romola by George Eliot

The probing Victorian novels of George Eliot (1819 – 1880; nom de plume of Mary Ann Evans) sealed her reputation as one of the greats of English literature. The insightful essay following argues that (masculine pen name notwithstanding) George Eliot wrote as a woman, as only a woman could, without any outlook that could be construed as a man’s.

George Eliot drew her characters with great compassion. Her politically and socially driven stories were populated with characters drawn with great psychological depth whether they were free thinkers, eccentrics, intellectuals, or complex women straining against societal strictures.

Eliot never looked down on her characters, whatever social class they belonged to, and she was especially compassionate to the women in her stories. From Adam Bede (1859) her first novel, through Daniel Deronda (1876), her last, her female characters were imagined fully formed, with dreams and desires of their own. Read More→

Elsa Morante, author of Arturo’s Island

Elsa Morante, a life in literature

Before the advent of the mysterious, best-selling author Elena Ferrante there was the provocative Italian novelist and short story writer Elsa Morante (August 18, 1912 – November 25, 1985).

Morante portrayed life’s pain and perils, but her novels also detail the power of imagination that can transport us from cruel reality. Her four novels span the entire twentieth century and illuminate the lives and inner worlds of men, women, and children.

All of her novels detail the main character’s coming of age and their fear of leaving behind the safety of childhood for the potential dangers of adulthood, and the prospect of death. Morante acknowledged the dark, overarching theme of her novels: Read More→

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→