Ladies First

Look at what I found yesterday afternoon. The two were just five pounds:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Five pounds!… as “Mrs. Bennet” might exclaim that with glee in Pride and Prejudice. Five pounds was then (1813) quite a bit of money. Today that’s not nearly as much as two centuries ago, of course.

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Two of the great works of literature for a fiver. Much as I love the Kindle, I wanted paperback copies of them; I don’t have any here in England. That price was irresistible.

Also yesterday, in response to Eric Keegan’s offering up his three favorite novels, I reconsidered my own favorites once more. It’s an entertaining exercise. I shared them in this post on Instagram:

Nothing’s changed: those favorites – The American (1877); The Winds of War (1971); Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful (1983); Pride and Prejudice (1813); The Last of the Mohicans (1826) – as you see remain what they have long been. After I noted them, I thought more about a related issue: their characters. Characters are always of paramount importance to me.

For novels lacking believable characters are little more than cartoons. Since starting my first book in 2012 I have also written many women, so how women are portrayed generally in novels (particularly by male writers such as myself) has become of great interest to me. That said, I will NOT here reveal who is, uh, my personal favorite among those women I have created on my pages so far:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

“Marie-Thérèse” is only one of them and is cited there as just an example.

Indeed this is a worthwhile aside given my genre. One of my aggravations is I feel as a general rule while invariably positioned as “complex,” Frenchwomen tend actually to be portrayed shallowly and lazily in modern English language literature – particularly when a story is set outside of France. Feel free to try this reading test: if the moment one is introduced you simply assume that she is either the villain or a nutcase – or both – odds are you are going to be right. She is rarely allowed to “develop” into a woman much like non-French women:

Excerpt from Passports, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.

Pausing to think about my “favorite” of my own creations led me to consider my favorite women in literature overall. Deliberately I tried not to “overthink” the question, but simply wrote down the first three I haven’t invented who came to my mind. Doing it that way helped I believe keep my answer pretty genuine. Here they are:

3) “Natasha Rostova” (War and Peace): We meet her first as a young teen who is childish, but also obsessed with romance. She makes mistakes, including a gigantic one for which she pays a heavy life price. By the end, we are rooting for her and she is nothing like the little girl we first encountered many years earlier.

2) “Elizabeth Bennet” (Pride and Prejudice): She is one of the best written women ever. She is smart and realistic. She is also no-nonsense and at times droll and sarcastic. By the conclusion, you think she is almost real.

[Poster for “The Last of the Mohicans” (1920) with Wallace Beery, Alan Roscoe, Barbara Bedford (center, as “Cora Munro”), Lillian Hall, and Harry Lorraine. From Wikipedia. Public Domain.]

1) “Cora Munro” (The Last of the Mohicans): I repeat: they don’t come more admirable and groundbreaking in American literature. Partly (perhaps 1/4) of black ancestry, and descended from enslaved persons, the intelligent, brave, and (truly) complex daughter of a British colonel, with whom sadly we journey only briefly during her often harrowing experiences in “1757,” is riveting reading. In my humble opinion, every young American should know who she is.

“Fitzwilliam D’arcy” speaking to “Elizabeth Bennet,” in “Pride and Prejudice.” Photo by me, 2018.]

Those are merely MY FAVORITES; naturally we all have our own. We all have our individual story tastes, and there is more than enough out there – from historical romance to crime to secret agents to sci-fi to wizards and quid-ditch to… well, you name it – for everyone. How can anyone honestly not like books?

Have a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂


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