A Secret Sisterhood: The Literacy Friendship of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney
Overall Rating: 3.5
Quick Summary: Popular conception of many beloved female authors is of them working away in solitude on their books. Midorikawa and Sweeney complicate this picture by revealing correspondence between the authors with other female authors. Jane Austen corresponded with Anne Sharp, Mary Taylor corresponded with Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot corresponded with Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Virginia Woolf corresponded with Katherine Mansfield.
This is a very interesting book, especially within the context that the authors establish in the introduction (hint: read the introduction). Being a female author at this time was difficult. There was a lot of social pressure to be a certain kind of (respectable) woman. The fellowship and friendship between female authors is fascinating and inspiring.
There are some serious problems with the first chapter in the book on Jane Austen and Anne Sharp. If you only read this chapter, I think you’ll be disappointed. It is weak on the historical evidence and the conclusions the authors draw are not very compelling. But, if you press on (or skip that chapter all together), the book is very worthwhile!
I really enjoyed the complexity in which the authors present the literary friendships. They aren’t magical, perfect friendships. The women are not perfect individuals. There isn’t an attempt to whitewash the women to prove how great they are, which is terribly important in recounting history. My favorite chapter is the last chapter because of this reason.
Also, please read the conclusion. It’s interesting and it’s worth it.
Is it worth buying? (Kindle $9.99)
If you’re like me, you’ve probably read books by all of these authors. If this is the case, then I think you’ll enjoy the book. It’s great to get some background on what was going on personally for the authors as they were writing their books. This is saying in a long about way, yes, buy it or borrow it from the library.
Something else you might enjoy:
I don’t have any suggestions. Do you?