In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

ELT: Volume 33:2, 1990 do heavy domestic labor and that housework may be shared by married partners. These quibbles, however, detract only minimally from the overall value of Breaking the Angelic Image's thesis: that the genre of Victorian and Edwardian children's fantasy, far from supporting the parallel conventional fantasy of women as Angels, came closer to portraying the reality of women's potential than did adult fiction of the same period. Lauren Pringle De La Vars St. Bonaventure University The Famous and the Not So Famous Merryn Williams. Six Women Novelists. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988. xii + 121 pages $24.95 PART OF THE MODERN NOVELISTS SERIES, Six Women Novelists discusses Olive Schreiner, Edith Wharton, F. M. Mayor, Katherine Mansfield, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Antonia White. This mixture of famous and less-known writers is refreshing, but troubling. The book, a sequel to Merryn Williams's Women in the English Novel 1800-1900 (1984), implies that none of these writers merits her own volume. Indeed Virginia Woolf is absent from the discussion because Williams "was forced to exclude some distinguished writers" since "they already have books to themselves in this series." Thankful for any serious treatment of the less canonized writers, scholars should value this study despite such restrictions. Treating six novelists in 120 pages requires brief, focused discussions . Williams devotes a chapter to each author, including an overview of the life and critical evaluations of the writer. She then discusses the major themes in the authors's oeuvres, concentrating on a primary conflict in each writer's life: "I have tried to give an adequate account of each woman's personal literary achievement. But there is a connecting theme, and that is the experience of women in societies which are undergoing massive changes and giving them confused and contradictory messages. The central character is almost always a woman who cannot fit in." These struggles represent post-Victorian woman's dilemma as she faced a world of "enormous and far-reaching changes," including sexual and religious revolutions as well as war and its aftermath. Not hagiography, this study frankly admits strengths and weaknesses in each author. Those willing to venture further into the twentieth 236 Book Reviews century should read Antonia White, whose novels powerfully evoke the female dilemma of growing up enthralled to a charming but abusive father. Readers of ELT, however, will likely be more interested in Schreiner, Mansfield, Mayor, and Sayers. As Williams asserts, Olive Schreiner deserves more discussion. She believes Schreiner's unfinished novel From Man to Man (posthumously published in 1926) is a "much better and more substantial book" than Story of an African Farm (1883), which established Schreiner's reputation as a great writer. Williams is nevertheless impatient with Schreiner's low productivity, writing that for another woman this success with African Farm "could have been the start of a brilliant career. Yet somehow, now that she had got where she wanted to be, she frittered away the opportunity." Williams ignores that Schreiner's "frittering" included painful explorations of passion and the control of it with such men as Havelock Ellis, as well as several bouts of asthma. Since the changing sexual roles of men and women are part of the turmoil Williams cites as linking the women of this study, her dismissal of this passage in Schreiner's life seems puzzling. Many readers share Willliams's frustration with Schreiner's small output and our speculations on why Schreiner kept revising From Man to Man instead of getting "on with it" could be endless. Although Williams asserts Schreiner wanted the next book to be perfect, I would add that the success οι African Farm forced Schreiner to consider herself a serious writer with a social and political responsibility to other women and society. She had to live up to African Farm in her sequel. Any author successful with a first book feels this pressure, but for Schreiner it was greater because of the political and social issues she dealt with in her writing. As Williams notes "It is hardly possible to discuss Olive Schreiner's fiction without discussing her ideas." Schreiner believed the "philosophical discussions which interrupt the action of...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 236-239
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.