Women, historically, have never been at the forefront of literature. They were often thought to be less intelligent to their male counterparts and incapable of any higher level of thinking. Because of this, it is honestly a bit surprising there are a number of female writers within classical literature. Some of the most notable are the Brontë sisters.
Emily, Charlotte, and Anne Brontë published works in the mid nineteenth century. All three sisters originally wrote under pen names, with Emily as Ellis Bell, Charlotte as Currer Bell, and Anne as Acton Bell. If you are familiar with any of their works, it is most likely Emily’s Wuthering Heights and/or Charlotte’s Jane Eyre.
Wuthering Heights follows two families, the Lintons and the Earnshaws, and their desperate hatred yet longing for one another. In her writing, Emily makes a point of making most details important. From the moors between Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange to the contrast of the physical appearance of the two families, every detail matters. Emily also touches upon the important topics around socioeconomic status and love/power.
In Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, we see the protagonist, Jane Eyre, go through life working as a governess and falling in love. Jane undergoes a huge transformation throughout the novel, as we see her rise from her insecure childhood to have beaming self-confidence. Like her sister, Charlotte makes societal commentary around socioeconomic status, women empowerment, and even racism through her character Bertha Mason.
The point is this: the woman’s perspective, story, and thoughts are crucial to classical literature. Classical literature is resilient because it displays recurring thoughts and feelings far beyond its time. Where would we be if that did not include women’s ideology as well? No man during the mid eighteenth century would want to talk about female empowerment or write about love in the same manner. Similarly, the Brontë sisters’ attention to detail is impeccable and showcased that women were capable of higher thinking and excellence.
In simple terms, the Brontë sisters were trailblazers. They displayed the power of women and gave women a voice during a time where women may not have had a strong voice. If you have not read them already, I would highly recommend Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, or any other of the Brontë sisters’ works.
Think back to your last English class. Maybe it was in high school, maybe it was last week. Who are the first poets you think about? Walt Whitman? W.B Yeats? T.S Eliot? Probably. Don’t you find it surprising that all of these poets we are taught so much about and consider to be ‘The Greats’ are all male? This is the point where you argue that nobody could possibly forget Sylvia Plath, the female poet who is every girl’s paragon. So, you’ve heard of one female poet, you may have even heard of Emily Dickinson or Maya Angelou. So, you think this is enough poetry by women and that women are not oppressed or silenced in the least with regards to poetry, and therefore my argument is flawed. However, how many of you have read the modern contemporary poetry of Claudia Rankine, Carolyn Forche or Natasha Trethewey? August is women’s month, and during this month, we must ALL try to appreciate how far women have come in the literary world. All of their triumphs seem to be overlooked when Stephen King releases a new book. How about we all just take a step back and read some poetry or even a novel from the eyes of a woman?
The only way that we can get away from stereotypical gender roles is to support women in their writing and be grateful that we live in a time where woman can write freely. Back in the day, the time that none of us like to think about, women had to write under pseudonyms as it was a ‘man’s job’ to be that of an intellectual. Women have an interesting perspective in their poetry; it’s not all about childbearing as we have been taught to expect. Women have a better perspective on things regarding gender roles that we only hear in a bias way on the news. Women write about more than just their struggles - many of them write in a way and about things that would astonish you and that you would never have thought of. Poetry of all kinds, be it male of female, have depth and power. Try reading women’s poetry this month and continue to support female writers, be they famous or not.
New year, new books from some of our favourite and most beloved authors. Some expected and some not so expected. These new releases will make you excited for a 2019 full of amazing releases to come.
Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zuzak
I’m sure this authors name is not new to anyone as he is the author of the much-acclaimed book and movie, The Book Thief. This new release caused a lot of controversy and mixed opinions, but this book is as much of an artwork as The Book Thief is. The writing is poetic in style and gives you goose bumps and is definitely not boring as people reviewed it as being. This novel follows the story of five brothers who are trying to look after themselves on their own with parents who are no longer in the picture. Unlike the macabre narrative of The Book Thief, the narrator is the eldest brother, Matthew. Death doesn’t seem to steal the show in this one. The dual narrative also follows the boy’s mothers’ journey out of communist Russia as well as shows how the boy’s father turns into the ominous “Murderer”. We hear lots of the stories through Clay’s memories of his mother’s tales. The main plot of the story is about Clay’s journey to build a literal and figurative bridge between the boys and their father. Yes, Zuzak really did do a play on words there and no, I don’t know how to feel about it. This book is long, you will pick it up and think to yourself that you could never read such a thick book, but it is really worth the read. Zuzak once again outdid himself and nothing beats his writing.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taharah Mafi
This book is an absolute must read if you are looking for a bit of a shorter read. This extremely important read is written by the author of the Shatter Me series that was a fan favourite. This book follows a young girl in high school who chooses to wear her hijab and the horrible racism that she receives for it especially after the 9/11 attack. Not only is this book highly political and highlights our societies biggest issue but it is also a very fun novel. The novel is filled with romance (we all pretend to hate it but actually love it), this book is nostalgic of high school but is still relevant to varsity students. The book touches on first love which take one back to the roller coaster days of first love, however, Mafi uses this trope and allows you to see it through the lens of a culture that is seldom written about. This book doesn’t only refer to the very important topic of racism but has some fun elements of break dancing. I found this to be a very interesting mechanic as I’ve never read anything about break dancing which made the story light-hearted and not too serious. This book is both eye-opening and heart-breaking.
Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
Hosseini is the author of many famously heart-breaking books such as The Kite Runner and a Thousand Splendid Suns. His new book Sea Prayer is also a heart-wrenching story, albeit a very short one. This book is essentially a short poetic letter from a father to his son which acts as a prayer which is lifted into the universe. This prayer is told on the eve of a dangerous journey of a family out of their war-torn country. The poem is accompanied by beautiful water colour illustrations which just aid in showing how wars ruin peoples lives as well as taint their happy memories of places that they once loved. This story was inspired by the story of a three-year-old boy, Alan Kurdi, who drowned while his family attempted to flee Syria. However, this is the story of many refugees and because of that Hosseini will donate all the proceeds of this book to the United Nation Refugee Agency. The book is short and unoriginal; however, it is powerful, impactful and emotional which is the most important thing a book like this needs to do.
Labyrinth of Souls by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Zafon is the author of The Shadow of the Wind as well as the rest of the successive companion books such as, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoners Game. These books are interlinked but you do not need to read the predecessors to read this one. Labyrinth of Souls is the finale of this series and ties up any loose ends with some of the beloved characters from the other books. This book follows the horrors and secrets of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s Dictatorship and how he and the Catholic church overturned the democratic rule. The Sempere Family and their
bookshop is still a big part of the story as well as the magic of books, friendship, love and family. Zafon’ s quartet of novels show the importance of writing buts also sheds light on the shadows and secrets of the fascist regime. New characters are also introduced such as Alicia Gris who lost both her parents in the Barcelona bombings by the fascists. The prose of this novel is both atmospheric and beautiful which makes reading this thick book easier. Zafon’ s beguiling storytelling highlights the political espionage with intrigue. This book is highly recommended as it is a part of history that is not often spoken about or that seems to get lost in the dictatorship Archives.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
I’m sure everyone knows about Hanks brother, John Green with his over- romanticised and elitist novels. The brothers are also on a very highly used YouTube channel called Crash Course that has saved many students lives. Hank Green is not the brother who is most famous for his books, but this was a very highly anticipated release from him. This book seems to be a very strange mash up of alien sightings as well as social media and YouTube which seems to be a very bizarre and far-fetched storyline. This is very ‘21st -century-esque’ as it isn’t something you usually read in fiction. There is diversity shown in this book through a bisexual character which seems to be the trend at the moment. The premise of this book is that an alien sighting goes viral and once this occurs, a whole bunch of new aliens start appearing around the world. The simplistic writing style is not for everyone, but it is easy to become engrossed in the story and you are happy to spend your time reading this book. You can see Green’s excitement in imparting knowledge through the pages of technical exposition of things such as physics and neurology. The main character is easy to relate to as you can see your own flaws through hers as well as her strengths. This story has a much deeper meaning as it speaks about the dangers of basing one’s self-worth by likes or social media presence as well as how comments can create an alternate version of oneself. Over-all this book is quite witty and an interesting read as its very different from anything else. It sets a tone for Hank Greens books to come and how he will continue to grow as a contemporary author. These new books will hopefully set the tone for another great year of new releases by some of the most loved authors.