Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: A Secret Sisterhood

Author: Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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. Co-authors 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 Brontë; 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.

As writers today, we know that we owe a great debt to the lives and works of female authors of the past.

In their friendships, these women overcame differences in worldly success and social class, as well as personal schisms and public scandal.

In piecing together the lost stories of these four trailblazing pairs, we have found alliances that were sometimes illicit, scandalous, and volatile; sometimes supportive, radical, or inspiring – but, until now, tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.

This literary treat of a book examines some of the fabulous female friendships that spurred the lives of some of the most well-known female authors like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Virginia Woolf – just to name a few. However, do not be misled by the front cover of the book; these women did not have personal relationships with one another, as most were not even of the same time. The authors of this book focus on telling readers about the support systems these women formed while trying to make a breakthrough as a female in the writing world. I am sure that this book will excite all types of literary lovers, especially new authors.

The information in this book has been well researched and is all the more relevant because the authors are also best friends and worked together to create something to promote and display the need for friendship. It's important to see the effect of gifted women on each other through the ages, reaching out to each other and encouraging one another. In this way, Midorikawa and her co-author Emma Claire Sweeney, have made an important contribution to discussing the works of these much studied writers. The material was fascinating and a lot of the research shown here was information that I have never ran across before in my studies of some of these authors. I was totally fascinated and walked away feeling like I had learned so much!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for my honest review***

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