From the Author
A Conversation with Belinda Jack
Q: How did you come to write this book?
A: I became interested in just how different men and women's reading has often been. Men have worried since ancient times about what women read but the reverse has hardly ever been the case.
Q: What were the most striking stories uncovered in the course of your research?
A: It's been fascinating tracing women's responses to misogynist writings that they then re-wrote—across the centuries and different cultures. And I was astonished by so-called medical works in the nineteenth century recommending that unstable women should be prevented from reading novels. One eminent physician recommended books on beekeeping!
Q: Is the story essentially one of slow improvement?
A: In some ways, but not altogether. I was struck by just how similar attitudes to women's reading were in late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Europe and in Ancient Rome. In both contexts women were encouraged to read only insofar as it provided them with a moral training, or helped them to be good mother-educators. The other parallel was that literate women reflected their husband's social status.
Q: Were you ever discouraged from reading or denied access to certain books?
A: Both my parents were keen readers but my father didn't think I should read stories in which people died—which ruled out a good deal! They used to call me either a "bookworm" or a "great reader." Even when quite young I saw how very different those descriptions were.
Praise for Belinda Jack’s George Sand:
“[Jack’s] approach is psychological but with a light touch. . . . Thorough without being pedantic. . . . A pleasure to read.”—Library Journal
“Focused and engaging.”—New York Times Book Review