A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf Hardcover – October 17, 2017
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“A medley of vivid narratives” —The Atlantic
“Midorikawa and Sweeney have committed an exceptional act of literary espionage. English literature owes them a great debt.” —Financial Times
"Enthralling, illuminating, and a treat for fans of any of the writers who are covered." —STARRED Booklist
"Rich and revealing...these forgotten friendships, from illicit and scandalous to radical and inspiring, are revelations." —KIRKUS
"[An] evocative and well-researched ode to female solidarity." —Publishers Weekly
"Extraordinary detective work...fascinating...readers interested in women writers and these authors in particular will find this work enlightening." —Library Journal
"Now that A Secret Sisterhood is in print it will be even more difficult than ever before for critics and biographers, male or female, to dismiss, ignore or bury the friendships that literary women have enjoyed. And that’s worth cheering!" —New York Journal of Books
“A Secret Sisterhood is a marvel. On the strength of a hunch, two friends embark on a research mission that winds up becoming a vital and necessary contribution to women's history, literary history, and the literature of friendship. Beautifully written, rich with insight and feeling, this book is a must-read for anyone who knows that behind every great woman stands a great female friend.”
—Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own
“In this wise and exhilarating book, Midorikawa and Sweeney, literary friends themselves, delve into the friendships of women writers, learning lessons along the way about making art, making and keeping friends, and the perils and pleasures of literary life.”
—Samantha Ellis, author of How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much
“A Secret Sisterhood offers a clever new perspective on established literary figures. While we may inherit family and circumstances, we get to choose our friends; and those these famous women writers have chosen reveal much that is fresh and fascinating about their lives and their work.”
—Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and editor of Reader, I Married Him
“In digging up the forgotten friendships chronicled in A Secret Sisterhood, Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney have done much service to literary history. . .These four women, however iconic they have now become, were not two-dimensional icons, nor were they plaster angels: they were real people, with all the neediness, anxiety, ardor, and complexity that come with the territory.”
—Margaret Atwood, from the foreword
About the Author
EMMA CLAIRE SWEENEY’s work has been published in the Guardian, the Independent, andthe Times. She has won Arts Council and Royal Literary Fund Awards, and her debut novel, Owl Song at Dawn, came out to critical acclaim in 2016. Emma holds an English literature degree from the University of Cambridge and a creative writing MA from the University of East Anglia, and her Ph.D. focused on Virginia Woolf. Emma now teaches at New York University–London.
MARGARET ATWOODis the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale (now a Hulu series) and its sequel The Testaments, her novels include The Blind Assassin (winner of the Booker Prize), Alias Grace (winner of the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy), The Robber Bride, Cat’s Eye, The Penelopiad, The Heart Goes Last, and Hag-Seed, a novel revisitation of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, for the Hogarth Shakespeare Project. Her latest book of short stories is Stone Mattress: Nine Tales. She is also the author of the graphic novel Angel Catbird (with cocreator Johnnie Christmas). Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.
- Publisher : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition (October 17, 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 054488373X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0544883734
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.18 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #982,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney delved into often overlooked diaries of those on the periphery of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf as well as the diaries and letters of the women themselves. In doing so, they discovered strong bonds these literary women shared with other female writers often ignored or hidden by their contemporary biographers and family. Richly detailed in a highly readable way with biographical background about the authors, Midorikawa and Sweeney provide a more rounded and defined portrait of each of these female authors. Removing them from their stereotyped molds, they showcase flesh and blood women, who struggled, fought, possessed biting wits, and were fiercely passionate about their writing. This passion for writing in all four women by necessity required the support of other female writers who understood such struggles and exhibited a strong intellect. A Secret Sisterhood is a treat for admirers of these four literary women as well as those who enjoy history and biography. Hopefully Midorikawa and Sweeney will collaborate on more such works in the future!
Thank you to the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and to Netgalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Charlotte Bronte's most famous friend is Ellen Nussey, but Mary Taylor was not only a school companion, she was an inspiring force for the author of Jane Eyre, with her feminism ante litteram and her courage. Mary was also a published author and a traveler, in so many senses a real modern woman.
George Eliot never met Harriet Beecher-Stowe in person, but they corresponded over the course of years and shared several moments of sorrow and disappointment, as well as of joy and success.
Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield are generally seen as bitter rivals, but the truth is that they also treasured each other and valued each other's work and opinion. Katherine was often sick and obliged to spend time in mild climates, and that unfortunately affected their relationship, that was however vibrant until her premature death.
This book is simply fascinating: well written and researched, I could not put it down. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the life of the four writers in the title and about the richness of literary friendships that became sisterhoods.
Top reviews from other countries
I rarely give five stars but I thought about it. Bravo.