If you are reading this and you happen to actually know me, this topic will come as no surprise whatsoever. The Broke and The Bookish have given us a fairly open topic this week, with the theme being Ten Books to Read If You Are In The Mood For X. I assume X means we can choose what we want, and not that this week’s themes is books which are about a notoriously difficult Scrabble letter.
So I’ve gone for the books which made me a feminist in the first place and the books which continue to enrich that. I’d love to know if you’ve got any to add.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I talk about this book approximately every 15 seconds, but that is only because it is so good and so important. I read it for the first time when I was 17 and studying A-level English literature; we had an amazingly cool teacher called Dr Woodman who was Canadian and thus unspeakably exotic. She gave us our copies of The Handmaid’s Tale and I had read mine by the next day. I went to an all-girls’ school, so you can probably imagine our collective response, particularly when we considered that everything in The Handmaid’s Tale had happened somewhere at some point.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
A kind of YA-Handmaid’s, Only Ever Yours is a terrifying dystopia about a society in which nobody has girl babies anymore and women exist solely to satisfy men. The competitiveness between the girls and some of the bitchiness is alarmingly accurate, which is part of what makes this so believable. I reviewed this here and then made my daughter listen to Beyonce’s Girls (Run the World) on repeat until she cried. Incidentally, Louise O’Neill is pure gold on Twitter and an astounding feminist role model.
Asking for It by Louise O’Neill
Yes, I am obsessed with Louise O’Neill. Of all the 151 books I read in 2015, this is probably the one which has stayed with me the most. O’Neill tells the story of a girl called Emma who is raped and humiliated at a party, and the aftermath. It is horrific and harrowing read, largely because there’s not a thing in it that isn’t completely believable.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
There’s a clear parallel to be drawn between Asking For It and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and having realised this, it is horrific to think how little attitudes have changed in 150 years. Tess is raped by her cousin and then her life is completely destroyed, and the whole thing is absolutely heartbreaking. I think Asking For It and Tess are the only books that have ever made me feel so broken and angry at the end.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This is a weird little book about some very patronising male explorers who happen across a society populated entirely by women. During their stay with this community, the men reflect about a billion times on the fact that it is impossible for women to live together without scratching each other’s eyes out, which is exactly the kind of patriarchal crap that makes me scowl. Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is probably better known, but this is worth a look too.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
I’ve banged on about this at length before, but I will just say that it is basically impossible to read Dracula in the 21st century without shouting “DAMN PATRIARCHY” every time the men tell Mina to go to bed and stay pretty.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I hated this book with a passion that is usually only reserved for pop covers of punk classics and people who queue jump at the school coffee machine. I don’t know what Flynn was trying to achieve with her portrayal of “psycho bitch” Amy, but it is grim and, if she thinks she’s done anyone any favours whatsoever with the whole “false rape accusation” thing, she is raving.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Rather like Tess, it’s really hard to read this book without growling frequently about the hypocrisy of a patriarchal society. Hester Prynne has an affair and is vilified in her narrow-minded Puritan community. All the men in this book should make you feel vaguely nauseous.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
I loved this an immense amount, partly because of how immaculately Hamilton draws attention to the treatment of women in the world she creates: a world which is not a million miles away from certain societies which still exist. The protagonist, Amani, is forced to dress as a boy to be taken seriously, and has to flee her hometown to avoid a forced marriage to her uncle.
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Possibly one of the central texts of feminist criticism in literature, Taming’s story of Katherina, wild and impossible to manage, basically being abused by a man purely for giggles, before seeming to fall in love with him, is maybe Shakespeare’s most interesting play. Every time I think about Katherina’s final speech, I change my mind about what it really means, but there’s one thing which can’t be misinterpreted, and that’s the fact that Petruchio denies her food at one point and, if my husband tried that, I wouldn’t be making speeches about letting him tred on my hand.
Thanks for stopping by; I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and link me to your TTT too.