A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney

33413920

Rating – 4 stars

Date Finished – July 13, 2017

58/120 in 2017

Release Date – October 17, 2017

“Once people become famous their images tend to congeal. They become engravings of themselves, and we think of them as always having been grown-up and respectable. A Secret Sisterhood reminds us that this is not the case. Sweeney and Midorikawa take us back to formative years, retrace forgotten footsteps, and tap into emotional undercurrents in these writers that we had not suspected. These four women, however iconic they have now become, were not two-dimensional icons, nor were they plaster angels: they were real people, with all the neediness, anxiety, ardor, and complexity that come with the territory.” – Excerpted from Margaret Atwood’s Introduction

I can’t say it better than Margaret Atwood, and why should I try?! I immensely enjoyed reading about the four friendships that this book explores. I definitely have a certain congealed image of all of these women, and I loved the opportunity to dismantle my own expectations. All of the friendships detailed have been either expunged completely from the historical imagination or cast as antagonistic (any strife or competition between female authors = enemies). It’s definitely time that we acknowledge the complicated, unruly reality of these famous women (and so many more), and investigate how their previously ignored female friendships impacted their work and their legacies.

I especially loved that this was researched and written by a pair of female writers who are willing to sit with the uncomfortable parts of their own competitive and supportive relationship.

“Misleading myths of isolation have long attached themselves to women who write: a cottage-dwelling spinster; an impassioned roamer of the moors; a fallen woman, shunned; a melancholic genius. Over the years, a conspiracy of silence has obscured the friendships of female authors, past and present. But now it is time to break the silence and celebrate this literary sisterhood — a glimmering web of interwoven threads that still has the power to unsettle, to challenge, to inspire.” (Praise hands emoji)

Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an advance copy of this book!

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