Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Taylor, Helen "Why Women Read Fiction"

Taylor, Helen "Why Women Read Fiction. The Stories of Our Lives" - 2019

My son gave me this book for Christmas because "it was a new one and I could be more certain you don't have it yourself yet, though I do think you are interested in it." He was right on all accounts. I hardly ever buy hardbacks, especially not if I think they might come out next year in paperback and it is certainly interesting to read about women reading. And why we're reading so much more than men.

When my sons were little, they were voracious readers, they devoured everything that fell into their hands and therefore, they read adult books a long time before they were adults.

I found the questions asked by the author very intriguing. I found myself in a lot of the women she described. Having been a member of several different book clubs, I understood a lot of the findings and of the frustrations that come along with deciding what to read and discuss. The author talked to many other authors, readers, book clubs, and they all had something to add to the fact "why women read fiction". She reports on our reading habits, how we choose what we read and share what we read,

I totally agree that it has to do with the fact that we used to be more housebound than the male of the species but that's not necessarily true anymore. Mind you, I lived in a hostile environment for a long time and without being able to flee into my books, I doubt I would have come out sane on the other side. So, there's that.

An interesting idea, if you're in a book club, or even if not. Let every member name "the book they loved, the one that made them stalk, the one they struggled with, the one that surprised you, the one that divided you, the one that nobody finished, the one you wished you'd read."

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading and the reason behind it. It certainly would also be a good book club book.

The book is full of quotes. Here are my favourites:

"There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away." Emily Dickinson

"Life is a handful of short stories pretending to be a novel." Susan Hill

"Reading has seen me through good times and bad. It has taken me to places I longed to go and some I did not want to go. At times, it has challenged, at times comforted." Kathy J.

"MYTH: Romance readers are obsessed with wine, chocolate and Pride and Prejudice. FACT: You say that like it's a bad thing." Maya Rodale, Huffington Post

"Every book [is] a message in a bottle." Jeanette Winterson

"Reading is a life-long collision with minds not like your own." Jeanette Winterson

And I found a new interesting blogger: dovegreyreader

From the back cover:

"Ian McEwan once said, 'When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.' This book explains how precious fiction is to contemporary women readers, and how they draw on it to tell the stories of their lives. Female readers are key to the future of fiction and - as parents, teachers, and librarians - the glue for a literate society. Women treasure the chance to read alone, but have also gregariously shared reading experiences and memories with mothers, daughters, grandchildren, and female friends. For so many, reading novels and short stories enables them to escape and to spread their wings intellectually and emotionally.

This book, written by an experienced teacher, scholar of women's writing, and literature festival director, draws on over 500 interviews with and questionnaires from women readers and writers. It describes how, where, and when women read fiction, and examines why stories and writers influence the way female readers understand and shape their own life stories. Taylor explores why women are the main buyers and readers of fiction, members of book clubs, attendees at literary festivals, and organisers of days out to fictional sites and writers' homes. The book analyses the special appeal and changing readership of the genres of romance, erotica, and crime. It also illuminates the reasons for women's abiding love of two favourite novels, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Taylor offers a cornucopia of witty and wise women's voices, of both readers themselves and also writers such as Hilary Mantel, Helen Dunmore, Katie Fforde, and Sarah Dunant. The book helps us understand why - in Jackie Kay's words - 'our lives are mapped by books.'"

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