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


Overview - Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend; think Byron and Shelley, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But the world's best-loved female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses. Coauthors and real-life friends Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney prove this wrong, thanks to their discovery of a wealth of surprising collaborations: the friendship between Jane Austen and one of the family servants, playwright Anne Sharp; the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Bronte; the transatlantic friendship of the seemingly aloof George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, most often portrayed as bitter foes, but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex friendship fired by an underlying erotic charge.  Read more...

 
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More About A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa; Emma Claire Sweeney; Margaret Atwood
 
 
 
Overview
Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend; think Byron and Shelley, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But the world's best-loved female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses. Coauthors and real-life friends Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney prove this wrong, thanks to their discovery of a wealth of surprising collaborations: the friendship between Jane Austen and one of the family servants, playwright Anne Sharp; the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Bronte; the transatlantic friendship of the seemingly aloof George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, most often portrayed as bitter foes, but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex friendship fired by an underlying erotic charge.

Through letters and diaries that have never been published before, A Secret Sisterhood resurrects these forgotten stories of female friendships. They were sometimes scandalous and volatile, sometimes supportive and inspiring, but always--until now--tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780544883734
  • ISBN-10: 054488373X
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
  • Publish Date: October 2017
  • Page Count: 352
  • Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary Figures
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Women
Books > History > Women

 
BookPage Reviews

No woman is an island

When we think of the writing lives of iconic female authors Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, we imagine them going it alone, Austen at her tiny table, her sister and mother bustling around her, and Brontë stuck in her father’s spare parsonage, with siblings for company. But those images tell only part of the story, write Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, who detail the writerly friendships that sustained Austen and Brontë, as well as George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, in A Secret Sisterhood.

Drawing on a wealth of letters, Midorikawa and Sweeney reveal long friendships that were glossed over or even suppressed by descendants and biographers. For Austen, that friend was Anne Sharp, governess to Austen’s niece and an amateur playwright. Brontë first encountered lifelong friends Mary Taylor (who later wrote a feminist novel) and Ellen Nussey in boarding school, creating a middle school friendship triangle. Later, Brontë and Taylor studied French in Belgium, a transformative experience. Eliot grew an epistolary friendship with blockbuster author Harriet Beecher Stowe; the two never met, but they corresponded intermittently for decades after Stowe wrote an admiring letter to Eliot. And as for Woolf, a friendship with short-story writer Katherine Mansfield was fraught, but lasted until Mansfield’s untimely death.

In their approachable style, Midorikawa and Sweeney illuminate these novelists as each struggles to write and publish in an era hostile to women and cope with both anonymity and fame. We also get a sense of the relationships among these four: Brontë complained about Austen to Eliot’s partner, while Eliot herself was a great admirer of Austen. Woolf, in turn, revered Eliot. A Secret Sisterhood is bookended by a lovely foreword from Margaret Atwood and an epilogue noting other female literary friendships.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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