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Why Women Read Fiction Reviews

Why Women Read Fiction by Helen Taylor (Emeritus Professor of English, University of Exeter)

Why Women Read Fiction

The Stories of Our Lives

Helen Taylor (Emeritus Professor of English, University of Exeter)

3.80 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 16 Jan 2020
ISBN: 9780198827689

Written by a leading academic and broadcaster and drawing on interviews with readers, writers, reading groups, bookshop owners, librarians, and figures from literary publishing, reviewing, and festivals, this accessible volume offers an overview of the contemporary scene of women's novel-reading.

4 stars out of 5
2 Feb 2020

"The great joy of Taylor’s book is the light it shines on communities of women readers, something that helped me recognise my own"

The great joy of Taylor’s book is the light it shines on communities of women readers, something that helped me recognise my own. My mother is responsible for my parallel addictions to detective fiction, Nancy Mitford, and anything set in Cornwall about A Family And What Happens To Them (what happens is usually The War)My godson’s mother and I exchange books marked ‘you’ll like this’ with a psychological perspicacity that borders on the offensive. My wife prefers George Eliot to the Brontës, but marriage has made us experts in buying each other books (‘awful things in postwar Germany’ for her; ‘did you know this terrible Victorian fact?’ for me). Reading Taylor’s book has also made me join a book club. I did not like the January book; I did enjoy drinking gin while saying why. I would like to be in a book club with Taylor’s correspondents, having so much enjoyed the warmth, intelligence and insight of their conversations with her throughout the book.

Reviews

3 stars out of 5
Erica Wagner
15 Jan 2020

"In asking why women read fiction, Taylor’s book makes a start"

Fiction offers the possibility of other imagined lives. That’s terrific. Yet in women’s real lives, they are still, by and large, paid less than men for doing the same jobs. Women MPs are standing down from parliament, citing the abuse they have received, or the pressures on their family life. It is wonderful that women – myself included – gain so much from reading fiction. Yet the ways in which women are encouraged, or permitted, to engage with the world beyond the page are still often limited. I am energised by Bidisha’s daring interrogation of literary culture. In asking why women read fiction, Taylor’s book makes a start: but there are deeper, bolder questions still to be asked. 

4 stars out of 5
Daisy Goodwin
5 Jan 2020

"Our young women need literary heroines to teach them how to be heroines of their own lives"

So why do women — who after all make up the bulk of the fiction-reading public, as well as most of the editors, and a good proportion of the commercially successful authors — feel guilty about something that is cheap, calorie-free and enjoyable, and has no unwanted side effects? Taylor suggests that the idea of women reading fiction has always produced unease in a patriarchal world, and to prove her point she includes an illustration of The Reader, by the 18th-century painter Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, which appears to show a woman who is masturbating while reading a novel. One of her interviewees sums it up: “Having an affair is dangerous, masturbation requires privacy, reading a book offers both without anyone noticing. I can live a different life through books.”