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Hell Hath No Fury: Women's Letters from the End of the Affair Hardcover – August 27, 2002

3.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Whether a two-line note, a brief e-mail, an expansive retelling of a romance or a lamenting farewell, each letter in journalist Holmes's first book offers a snapshot from the end of an affair. With anger, sorrow, wit, intelligence and whining, such authors as Sylvia Plath, Mary Wollstonecraft, Anne Boleyn, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf and countless lesser-known women analyze what went wrong, say good-bye and address the future, some more happily than others, some impulsively and others with great forethought. Chapters group similar letters (the "tell off," the "just friends," the "marriage refusal," the "unsent letter," etc.), mixing contemporary and historical compositions, so that Monica Lewinsky's 1997 e-mail to President Bill Clinton follows Aline Bernstein's 1930s' correspondence with Thomas Wolfe in the "silent treatment" chapter, and the letter from a young woman named Lois to serviceman Harry Leister during WWII follows Valley of the Dolls author Jacqueline Susann's 1942 missive to film producer Irving Mansfield in the "Dear John" chapter. Holmes's comprehensive collection includes letters from epistolary and narrative novels beginning with Ovid's Heroides; prescriptive letters culled from letter-writing manuals; and unsent letters from as recently as October 2001. The careful reader will appreciate the subtle differences between many of the letters, but will have to plow through a quantity of less interesting work before happening on a gem. Many of the letters cannot stand on their own and beg for greater context and additional details about the author and the relationship. Still, literary romantics will have fun thumbing through this unique assemblage of send-off notes.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Motivated by her own disappointing relationship and the responses she received to the "breakup" letter she sent to her lover and to ten other people on the Internet, freelance writer Holmes compiled this anthology of 356 real or fictional letters of love, hatred, anger, disappointment, disgust, and rejection written by women when relationships with their lovers, suitors, or husbands went awry. The collection offers sent and unsent letters between various notables, including Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII, Mary Wollstonecraft to Gilbert Imlay, Princess Margaret to Robin Douglas-Home, Jacqueline Susann to Irvin Mansfield, and Monica Lewinsky to Bill Clinton, as well as those between unknown individuals, those published as literature (e.g., The Letters of Abelard and Heloise), and those published in letter-writing manuals. The anthology is divided into 13 sections, each chronologically arranged, according to types, such as "Marriage Refusal," "Prescriptive Letters," "Goodbye Letter," "Tell-Off," "Dear John," and "Divorce Letter." This book will be consoling to those who discover the universality of experiences and emotions, depressing to those who find the collection an overwhelming overdose of reactions to unfulfilled relationships, and inspiring to those motivated to pursue the relationships of notables mentioned or to study letters as literature. Appropriate for public and academic libraries.
Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, NJ
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (August 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786710373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786710379
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,618,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book contains, as described, letters from women to their partners at the end of the relationships. Some of the letters are laugh-out-loud funny, some poignant, some sad, some cruel, some pathetic and desperate. Some of the letters were written hundreds of years ago, and if you like classic literature, you will really enjoy the writing that comes directly from the hearts of women such as Anais Nin, Charlotte Bronte and Simone de Beauvoir. The letters are divided into categories such as "The Tell-Off", "The 'Just Friends'" and "The Divorce Letter". In each chapter, the letters are arranged chronologically, so if you are looking for a light, amusing read, you can flip to the middle of each chapter and read the more contemporary letters. Not all of the letter-writers are famous women. In fact, one of the leters was found lying on a sidewalk, its author never positively identified. I would recommend this book to someone who really enjoys reading, and enjoys the voyeurism of the peek into what is often the most interesting part of a relationship- its end.
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By Reader on March 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being, like the reviewer called Kim, interested in the epistolary genre, I eagerly purchased "Hell Hath No Fury". Like her, I found it extremely rewarding in some aspects, disappointing in others. The editor is an amateur (she admits that she knew nothing about the history of women's letters before undertaking this project), which may account for some of the flaws in this otherwise engaging book. Some of the letters could certainly have been dispensed with. Tanya's letter, with its tiresome stream of abuse (come on! do we really need to read about her boyfriend performing oral sex on her right after she had finished having sex with another man?) was gratuitous obscenity, but Leigh L.'s was something even worse, revealing racism and a nastiness which I personally found disgusting ("I guess that's what comes with being a good Jewish girl in bed with a Mexican", "thanks for letting me take your Panamanian virginity away" - you get the style; however, for a "good girl", she does seem to have been sleeping around a bit, and anyway, what exactly is a "Panamanian virginity" like?).

If you can overlook this sort of trash, and those letters that simply are not interesting enough, you may find some worthwhile - and occasionally moving - pieces. I deeply identified with Kate Christensen's frustration at her relationship with John, having felt exactly the same impotence and wretchedness when faced with my then-boyfriend's utter lack of understanding or respect for my beliefs and feelings. I also enjoyed the 63-year-old woman's letter to the man she had met on the internet - although I'm much younger, I could identify with what she felt. And the historical as well as some of the literary letters are a delight.
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By A Customer on November 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While some of the letters in this book are disturbing and intense, I disagree with the reviewer who says that the book is sickening. There are many loving letters as well as cruel ones, and the loving ones WAY outnumber the cruel ones. And the arrangement of the letters in the book is proof that we all react to breakups differently...some more maturely than others.
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Format: Hardcover
Not that I am a bitter person :) but this book is so refreshing to read when a relationship has gone badly. Everyone can relate to a relationship that has ended. This book is so enlightening as it places many different letters from healthy and the not so healthy relationships in one place. This book is refreshing in the sense that you can see the bad points in your relationship and move on. Giving you a wide range of author's this book gives you a large canvas to view relationships and their demise from. Some letters are from famous ladies, and the others are not so famous. I think the value of this is walking away with the knowledge that life goes on without that particular person in your life. All in all a book that evokes sympathy, laughter, and a tear or two.
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Format: Paperback
I loved this book! It is funny, sad, heart-wrenching, depressing, disturbing, uplifting, and causes you to re-think all of your relationships, spouse/partner-wise and others. No matter what personal relationship hell you have been through, it will make you realize that you are not alone, others have been through it as well, and it will leave you some great templates for expressing your feelings.

For anyone who has been betrayed and looking for the resource book on just how to cope - this will help.

This isn't classic literature. It isn't even good literature. If that is what you are looking for, this isn't for you. But if you have been betrayed, dumped, or just plain used, you will love hearing how these folks have expressed their rage in similar instances.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being interested in the epistolatory writing genre for several years now (e.g. Ovid's Heroides, the Heloise and Abelard letters), I thought this book might be an interesting read - shedding light on not only the emotions at the 'end of the affair', but on the lives of the many women - Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth I to name a few - whose missives are included here. The chapters are divided according to the type of letter written - Refusal of Marriage letter, the Autopsy letter, the Divorce letter, etc. While many of the letters could fall into several catagories, it's an effective organizational device. Many of the letters by famous women were unfamiliar to me, so that was a nice bonus. I didn't realize when I purchased the book, however, that many of the letters included are from modern day, ordinary women. Now, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with this concept at all - mixing 'historical' letters with contemporary letters (and emails). Provided the emotional and literary quality is on par - which might be wishful thinking, but wish it I did. Unfortunately, I found that many of the contemporary letters are amateurish and immature, often ineffectively vulgar, and poorly written. I'm sure the emotions are sincere, but that is not a justification for publication. While reading some of these modern letters might cause the reader to think "I'm not alone, other women have gone through this too" - which I am sure is the aim of the book - I just ended up thinking that I could outwrite and better express myself and my emotions more than most of the contemporary women included in this book.Read more ›
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