Celebrate International Women’s Day with Well Read Women

Today is International Women’s Day.

We are celebrating Womankind with these beautiful watercolour literary heroines, all of them written by our literary heroines, from Samantha Hahn’s Well-Read Women.

Catherine Earnshaw - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Catherine Earnshaw
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights is Emily Brontë’s only novel it was published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell; Brontë died the following year, aged 30.

Although Wuthering Heights is now widely regarded as a classic of English literature, contemporary reviews for the novel were deeply polarised; it was considered controversial because its depiction of mental and physical cruelty and it challenged strict Victorian ideals, including religious hypocrisy, morality, social classes and gender inequality.

Esther Greenwood - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“Sometimes just being a woman is an act of courage.”

The Bell Jar is the only novel written by the American writer and poet Sylvia Plath. Originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1963, the novel is semi-autobiographical, the protagonist’s descent into mental illness parallels Plath’s own experiences with what may have been clinical depression. Plath committed suicide a month after its first UK publication. The novel was published under Plath’s name for the first time in 1967 and was not published in the United States until 1971, pursuant to the wishes of Plath’s mother and her husband Ted Hughes.

Joe Marsh - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Jo March
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869.  The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood, and is loosely based on the Alcott and her three sisters.

In the pages of Little Women, you read the normalisation of ambitious women. This provided an alternative to perceived gender roles. Little Women repeatedly reinforces the importance of individuality and female independence. 

Edna Pontellier - The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Edna Pontellier
The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening, originally titled A Solitary Soul, was first published in 1899.

Set in New Orleans and the Southern Louisiana coast at the end of the nineteenth century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle to reconcile her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women’s issues without condescension. It is also widely seen as a landmark work of early feminism, generating mixed reaction from contemporary readers and criticism.

Lorelei Lee - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Lorelei Lee
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes began as a series of short sketches published in Harper’s Bazaar, Known as the “Lorelei” stories, they were satires on the state of sexual relations; quadrupling the magazine’s circulation overnight.The heroine, Lorelei Lee, was a bold, ambitious flapper, who was much more concerned with collecting expensive baubles from her conquests than any marriage licenses, in addition to being a shrewd woman of loose morals and high self-esteem. She was a practical young woman who had internalised the materialism of the United States in the 1920s and therefore equated culture with cold cash and tangible assets.
A bold story with a bold heroine.
Share you literary heroines – fictional characters and authors – with us on twitter using the #WellReadWomen

Bookstore of the Week – The British Library Bookshop

We are here once again to make your Wednesday afternoon just that little bit more exciting and we know this weeks bookstore will get all you book lovers drooling.

This week we are celebrating the ever impressive British Library Bookshop.

The British Library Entrance

Housed in the British Library this bookshop is a mecca for book-lovers of all shapes and sizes. You could be forgiven for missing this gem as it stands next to the magnificently grand St Pancras International Building, but then you probably didn’t know that 10 million bricks and 180,000 tonnes of concrete were needed to complete the building AND the library has a total floor area of over 112,000 sq metres spread over 14 floors – 9 above ground, 5 below!
Now you will never forget it. 

British Library Courtyard

With a range of books and bookish gifts the bookshop is a treasure trove, even if you are just shopping for a little pick-me-up for yourself! Perhaps one of their postcard collections will take your fancy or perhaps an Alice In Wonderland book broach. The shop features a wide range of books, audio and gifts, relating to the British Library and its unique archives. 

British Library Shop
Image courtesy of British Library Bookshop

 

And what a range that makes! The Library itself receives a copy of EVERY publication produced in the UK and Ireland, 3 million new items are added every year! They also have the world’s earliest dated printed book, the Diamond Sutra, is sometimes on display in our exhibition galleries alongside many other treasures.

British Library Bookshop
Image courtesy of British Library Shop.

 

You can’t help but be inspired by the sheer scale of publications that fill these walls!

The British Library

For more from the British Library Bookstore folks follow them on Twitter, Facebook, sign-up for their Newsletter and be sure you checkout their Blogs. With topics ranging from; 10 tips to help you start a successful business to Forgotten histories of the Passage: the whalers you are sure to find something to dive into!

Find them at:

96 Euston Road

London NW1 2DB

United Kingdom

020 7412 7735

P.S – It’s not too late to pick-up a Valentines Present for that someone special, take a look at what they offer & for more inspiration join in with #ArtBooksForValentines on Twitter!

Secret Sidekicks – D.James’s Personal Assistant

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The Who, The What, and The When; and illustrated love letter to the people (and pets!) behind some of histories most legendary figures.

Meet, JOYCE MCLENNAN 1943 – D. JAMES’S PERSONAL ASSISTANT

When Joyce McLennan takes a London bus to work, the slender woman with patrician features arrives at the Holland Park home of multi-award-winning English writer P. D. James, the queen of British mystery, creator of detective and poet Adam Dalgliesh. She is also known as Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL, recipient of seven honorary doctorates and four honorary fellowships, and a life peer in the House of Lords; but, after thirty-seven years of working together, to McLennan the esteemed author is simply “Phyllis.” McLennan was hired after the publication of James’s seventh novel.

McLennan’s intelligence and organisation complement her natural kindness. James notes in her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest, that McLennan is “unfailingly good-tempered,” a quality James could count on as her popularity rose and, with it, the demands on her time: “She is high among the small group of friends on whom I can rely to keep me sane.” Their process evolved from McLennan’s original job as part-time typist, working from home and raising two young children. Then, James would dictate a tape from her handwritten notes. McLennan or her husband, Mike, who worked for James’s publisher, Faber & Faber, would often pick up the tape, sometimes hidden at James’s side gate in a large china pig. Today, McLennan transcribes into a computer and prints pages for James to edit, leaving the famed mystery author to concentrate on research, plotting, and writing.

The increasing time needed to attend to the business side of being a successful author found James and McLennan tackling the mail together, which soon spread to modern e-mails and includes requests for photos, autographs, signed books for charity auctions, interviews and advice. When James travelled, McLennan would deal with incoming mail and day-to-day matters in her absence, leading James to say: “What would I ever do without her?” In recent years she has taken to accompanying James on longer trips.

Working alongside a popular figure serving on various committees, McLennan’s support sees the baroness through all of these activities, from chairing the Booker Prize panel of judges to a sixteen-year tenancy as president of the Society of Authors. After James’s appointment to the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission, McLennan’s humour showed in her response to its bulging paperwork. She created a file labelled “God.”

McLennan has remained an unobtrusive ally to James, someone UK journalist Kate Kellaway terms “secretary, friend and all-round prop.” James hints at the closeness of their relationship in her Author’s Note from 2001’s Death in Holy Orders: “I am particularly grateful to my secretary, Mrs. Joyce McLennan, whose help with this novel went far beyond her skill with a computer.”

Both genteel women appear most unlikely a duo to be so steeped in murder and betrayal. Yet the work ethic to produce complex mysteries persists, and when James recuperated from cardiac issues in a private Oxford hospital, McLennan travelled from London twice a week to help finish work on the most recent Dalgleish novel, The Private Patient. James is known for her sense of setting and the psychological depths she brings to her mysteries, as well as her strong descriptions, as in this excerpt from that same novel: “There was only the crack of the smashed bottle, like a pistol shot, the stink of whisky, a moment of searing pain which passed almost as soon as she felt it and the warm blood flowing from her check, dripping onto the seat of the chair, her mother’s anguished cry.”

McLennan’s calm, steadfast backing has allowed the author to continue writing into her nineties, yet she is rarely photographed or interviewed. A native of Pinner in the Middlesex area, McLennan is now a widow, and with her boys grown and out on their own, she shares her home in the west London suburb of Ealing with two cats, Tyler and Rafferty.

After decades of Joyce McLennan’s service as James’s trusted aide, it should come as no surprise that when James combined her two lifelong enthusiasms—writing detective fiction and the novels of Jane Austen—to create her sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she chose this fitting dedication for 2011’s Death Comes to Pemberley:

To Joyce McLennan

Friend and personal assistant who has typed

my novels for thirty-five years

With affection and gratitude

written by MARNI GRAFF

www.auntiemwrites.com

illustrated by JULIA ROTHMAN

www.juliarothman.com

Secret Sidekicks – EDGAR ALLAN POE’S FOSTER FATHER

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Partners and Spouses,

Muses and Lovers,

Relatives and Assistnats,

Neighbours and Friends…

These are the unsung heroes of history.

Discover another literary #SecretSidekicks from The Who, The What, and the When:

JOHN ALLAN 1779 – 1834EDGAR ALLAN POE’S FOSTER FATHER

John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia, brought Edgar Poe to live with them in 1811, when he was two years old. Edgar was an orphan. His father, David Poe, had died sometime during the preceding year, his mother, Eliza, early that December. At first, the informal adoption by an affluent businessman without children of his own seemed like a happy one: Frances

Allan and her maiden sister, who resided with the Allan’s, doted on the boy. Household accounts show that Edgar was well provided with books and toys, and in his correspondence John mentions Edgar often and with pride. In surviving early letters, Edgar addresses Allan as “My dear Pa.”

But by the time that Edgar Allan Poe was a student at the new University of Virginia in 1826, something in this relationship had gone wrong. The evidence is incomplete and conflicting, so it is hard to tell exactly what transpired. Poe claimed that Allan, having agreed to support him in his studies, left him without sufficient funds to pay his tuition, room and board. He was forced to turn to gambling, he said, as a last resort to pay his bills, and he ended up in debt. For his part, Allan seems to have formed a bad opinion of Poe’s character during the boy’s adolescence, calling him miserable, sulky, ill-tempered and without gratitude. He claimed that he had come to Charlottesville to pay all of Poe’s debts, apart from those incurred through gambling. It’s not clear whether he indeed did this, or whether he did or did not help Poe find employment later on that year.

What caused the rift? There is no satisfying answer to this question, though Allan’s own biography offers some clues. During Poe’s childhood, Allan suffered financial losses when his attempt to establish his trading business, Ellis & Allan, in London failed. Could this have made him feel less generous, or act less patiently toward his foster son? After the Allan family returned to Richmond, Allan was unfaithful to his wife. Poe, who was devoted to Frances, may have known about this, disapproved, and treated Allan coldly. Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that what started as a warm, supportive relationship devolved into fractiousness and mutual dislike, such that Allan in his “recommendation” for Poe to West Point wrote: “Frankly, sir, do I declare he is no relation to me whatever.” When Poe’s foster father was dying, he went to visit him. (John Allan was remarried by then and had a legitimate heir). Edgar had to physically push aside John’s second wife to get to him. As he approached, Allan raised his cane to strike Poe if he came closer and ordered him out of the room. This was the last time that they met.

Allan’s influence on Poe, then, is complicated, to say the least. He was the reason that Poe gained an education. He took Poe abroad, his first and only journey outside the United States. This encounter with the Old World, with the long settled, storied landscapes of England and Scotland, fed the settings of Poe’s fiction. But what about Allan’s rejection of Poe, whether justifiable or not? Allan was one of a list of parental figures to abandon Poe during his young life. So many of Poe’s stories center on houses and families that have turned from noble and grand to unfamiliar, decadent and broken, and on people who at first appear to be one thing but are actually something else entirely. The uncanny, the unheimlich, is most fundamentally a feeling that the skin may slip off the world at any moment, that what is familiar, homey, and welcoming may turn strange and hostile without warning. Clearly, Poe’s early experiences could have engendered such a sense of things. This cannot be attributed entirely to John Allan. But Allan’s apparent inconsistency, his inexplicably altered affections for his foster son, can’t have done anything to dispel this frightening outlook that so permeates Poe’s fiction.

written by EMILY MITCHELL

sites.google.com/site/lastsummeroftheworldbook

illustrated by BYRON EGGENSCHWILER

www.byronegg.com

Secret Sidekicks

 

SofieMagdeleneDahl

The Who, The What and, The When -A love letter to the unsung heroes of history. Including some literary geniuses…

Ever wondered who inspired Roald Dahl’s stories?

SOFIE MAGDALENE (HESSELBERG) DAHL 1885 – 1967

ROALD DAHL’S MOTHER

An old, wrinkled grandmother fills out every inch of an armchair, chewing with relish on a foul-smelling black cigar, in the Witches, one of the many popular children’s stories written by Roald Dahl. Smoke encircles her large body as she tells the young main character the “gospel truth” about how to identify witches. “She was a wonderful story-teller and I was enthralled by everything she told me,” the character narrates.

The description purposefully echoes how Roald thought of his own mother, Sofie. He based the grandmother’s character on her in a tribute to “undoubtedly the absolute primary influence on my own life,” Roald says in More About Boy, an expanded version of his memoir of his earlier years.

The Norwegian Sofie married Roald’s father, Harald, in 1911, and she moved to Wales to be with him and his two children from a previous marriage. She had three children of her own, two girls and Roald, before her seven-year-old daughter, Astri, died from appendicitis in 1920. Only three weeks later, Harald also passed away from pneumonia, leaving a pregnant Sofie alone to raise her soon-to-be five children.

Rather than return to Norway to live with her parents, she respected her late husband’s wishes that she stay in Wales and have her children educated in British schools. And despite her children’s mischievous activities while growing up, she was “a rock, a real rock, always on your side whatever you’d done,” Roald noted. “It gave me the most tremendous feeling of security.” Roald was her favourite child, and although the family called him “Boy,” she also called him “Apple.”

To entertain the children, Sofie told tales, pulling creative inspiration from folklore from her home country. “When we were young, she told us stories about Norwegian trolls and all the other mythical Norwegian creatures that lived in the dark pine forests, for she was a great teller of tales,” Roald wrote in More About Boy. “Her memory was prodigious and nothing that ever happened to her in her life was forgotten.”

Roald reciprocated this creative storytelling when Sofie enrolled him into boarding school when he was nine years old. He started writing letters to Sofie, telling stories about his life that meant to entertain and amuse.

In one letter in 1929, after Sofie gave him a pair of roller skates for his birthday, Roald tells his mother about skating in his school’s yard. “At one time I had eight chaps pulling me with a long rope, at a terrific lick, and I sat down in the middle of it,” Roald wrote. “My bottom is all blue now!”

From those very first letters until Sofie died thirty-two years later in 1967, he wrote her at least once a week whenever he was not home, including his time in school, when he worked with the Shell Oil company in Africa, and when he flew with the Royal Air Force in the Mediterranean during World War II.

Sofie secretly collected every single letter, amounting to more than six hundred from 1925 until 1945, into neat bundles with green tape, according to Roald. Only one term’s worth of letters are missing: the fall of 1928, which were damaged in a bombing in 1940. At the bottom of each letter, he signed his love with his given name—all except his first semester at boarding school, when he simply wrote “love from Boy.”

written by JACKI E LEAVITT

www.jackie-leavitt.com

illustrated by J ENSINE ECKWALL

www.jensineeckwall.com

The Who, The What and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History, reveals 65 people you’ve probably never heard of, but who helped shape the word as we know it. Muses and neighbours, friends and relatives, accomplices and benefactors, such as Michael and Joy Brown, who gifted Harper Lee a year’s worth of wages to help her write To Kill a Mockingbird. Or John Ordway, the colleague who walked with Lewis and Clark every step of the way. Each eye-opening story of these unsung heroes is written by a notable historian and illustrated by a top indie artist, making The Who, the What, and the When a treasure trove of word and image for history buffs, art lovers and anyone who rejoices in unexpected discovery.

Want to find out more? Follow the #SecretSidekicks hashtag!

Top Five Tips for surviving National Novel Writing Month

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National Novel Writing Month was born on the 1st July 1999 when Chris Baty and 21 friends each set out to write a novel, in ONE month. It sounds daft and frankly terrifying! But bear with me, it’s been going since we partied like it was 1999, in 1999, so there has to be something to it.

The first month is laid out in the introduction of Chris’s guide to participating in National Novel Writing Month; No Plot? No Problem! so I wont divulge to much here, but in Chris’s own words…

“The short version is that our novels, despite our questionable motives and pitiful experience, came out okay. Not great. But not horrible, either. And, more surprising than that, the writing process had been really, really fun.

And after the noveling ended on August 1, my sense of what was possible for myself, and those around me, was forever changed. If my friends and I could write passable novels in a month, I knew, anyone could do it.

Which is how the whole thing really got rolling.”

The years went by with, as you would expect, successes and failures but also “overly complicated T-shirt schemes” and Tony Danza…all leading us to the present day and the 16th year of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

You can read more about the history of Novel Writing Month on the website…http://nanowrimo.org/history

On this 16th Year chroniclebooks have brought out a revised, updated and expanded edition of No Plot? No Problem! complete with new tips, tricks and advice from 15 years of experience. We have pulled out our Top Five here to get you started.

Notebooks at the ready…

1. Find the time…

It is the reason those of us who dream of writing a novel don’t…

“I don’t have the time”

Chris lay’s out how to find the time with a beautifully simple system (there are even treats involved!) Finding Your Forgo-able with the Time Finder

Here is how it works: Before bed every night sit down and write down everything you did that day, i.e;

7.30-8.00 Got ready for work

8.00 – 8.45 Commute

8.45 – 9.00 Brought coffee

9.05 – 10.00 Breakfast & e-mails at my desk

etc…

Once you have completed your daily log reward yourself with a treat, go to sleep and repeat for one week. Once you have your week schedule underline every REQUIRED activity in red; basic hygiene requirements, what you need to do to keep your job, eating. Next mark the HIGHLY DESIRED in a different colour. If push came to shove you could do without these for a month, but would cause major stress or hardship, like getting your daily caffeine fix and attending birthday parties. Finally mark all the FORGO-ABLE activities that you can give up for a month. Like Facebook stalking, online shopping, TV watching and even recreational reading. Add-up how many hours you spend on average doing these FORGO-ABLE activities (be honest!) These are the hours you will over the next 30 days dedicate to your novel…

Now that you have the time and still have a job, a life, friends…

2. Turning Close Friends into Obligations…

A friendly pat on the back wont keep you writing…but fear is your new best friend.

Without a certain amount of terror pushing you towards your goal you will lost momentum and quit. But your friends and family can terrify you in  ways you never imagined…

i. Bragging; the more you brag about you novel the more expectation from friends and family.

ii. Put a bet on it; this could be money for forfeits . Think Ross in Friends encouraging Joey to write his play…

3. Don’t write withing view of a bed…

The lure of a nap is simply too great!

4. The Power of Headphones.

Headphones with or without music create a social buffer around you. They also dampen the outside world.

5. Keeping Beth from Bertha.

As you christen each of your characters write their names down on an easily accessed piece of paper or computer file. You will be amazed how easily the names “drift” and Mick becomes Mike…

So there are, your five tips to get you started! Chris has plenty more advice, sure to get your ready for your 30 day challenge, in his book and online on the National Novel Writing Month website.

Ready? Set, NOVEL!

Feel like joining in? There is still time to sign-up!

http://nanowrimo.org/

No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty £9.99 – Paperback – OUT NOW.

London’s Most Iconic Indie Bookstore.

Is there a more iconic Indie bookstore in London than Foyles?

From humble beginnings in 1903 with two brothers re-selling their textbooks, the opening of their first premises in 1906 at 135 Charing Cross Road, the big move in 1929 to the present day & the exquisite new flagship store, Foyles has fulfilled our book needs for decades. Even amidst the dark years of Christina Foyle’s reign – ‘if Kafka had been a bookseller, Foyles would have been the result’ – the doors remained open. (Read more about the history of Foyles on their website.)

This bookstore mogul with it’s passionate, friendly staff who are full of advice and recommendations epitomizes everything we love about bookstores. Get lost in the shelves, discover something new. Fall in love with reading again.

Named UK Bookseller of the Year two years in a row (2012 & 2013) this Indie giant is this week’s Bookstore hero.

Foyles we hope your doors stay open for another 111 years!