On My Mother’s Taste in Literature

When my mother got into her mid-thirties she decided she’d read enough books by men, and has almost exclusively read women’s writing ever since.

When I turned thirty-four last year, I was thinking about this. I counted through my bookshelf and it was about 70% books by men. They were mostly good books (mostly Wodehouse), but I did start to wonder if maybe I too had now read enough books by male authors.

Accordingly, last year I decided to reign back a little. By the end of the year, I’d got it down to about 40%. That moderate decrease led to a substantial discovery of female writers I’d never read before and subsequently loved: Madeline St John, Deborah Levy, Jessica Mitford, Elizabeth von Arnim, Romy Ash and a whole bunch of others.

Also, last year I noticed a lot of online complaints by ‘Men’s Rights Activists’, mostly writing about women’s work in a fairly hostile tone.

With that in mind, I thought I’d extend upon my mother’s example and only read novels by women this year.

Taking a leaf out of the Men’s Rights Movement handbook, I thought I’d write up little online reviews, applying the same enthusiasm for writing about women’s work as they do, but without the underlying assumption that such work infringes on my ‘rights’.

Moreover, my mother is a fairly selective reader, so I thought posting some book reviews might be useful for her. I’ll include a little summary ranking as to whether I think she’ll enjoy each book or not.

I’ll post the first review shortly. I’ve chosen to start with Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset.  I know Mother was a big Sutcliff fan as a child. She introduced me to her books during my own youth, leading to an unfortunate enthusiasm for Pre-Saxon British history.

3 thoughts on “On My Mother’s Taste in Literature”

  1. Not read it before? Love that book – it started my fascination with historical fiction, and I think I read it about four times through my teens. If you haven’t read it, try Josephine Tey’s “Daughter of Time” about a much-maligned king … it’s a fairly short book so not too difficult to squeeze in :)

  2. I read Josephine Tey, Rosemary Suttcliff and a guy called Geofrey Treece…..Remember asking Mum to explain why Treece was so different to Sutcliff. She basically told me there was more than one truth and that was OK.

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