So what do you think about the gendered nature of reading? Can men and women read the same books and receive them in the same way? Is there such a thing as ‘women’s writing’, or is that only to be understood as a historical misnomer, a patriarchal term that makes no sense in the modern world?
In the comments to my previous review, Dark Puss said ‘I am never a believer in books that are in any sense optimised for one sex or the other.’ Now we’ve had this conversation before, he and I (only I can’t find it, alas, in my voluminous archive), as I do believe there are books aimed at women readers and written with their social situation in mind, and that such books will not be enjoyed as readily by male readers. Now, one of Dark Puss’s favourite authors, I happen to know, is Colette, who was dismissed as a ‘woman’s writer’ for many decades. However, I think that she doesn’t rate as a good test, because the epithet was applied to her in a sexist way, and because her writing is so fantastic that her work offers a great deal to just about any reader.
So when I suggested to Dark Puss in our conversation that I should try him out on some other women-oriented novels and he was happy to oblige, I started to wrack my brains to come up with exactly the right sort of authors for the job. I wanted to think of books that were well-written, but… but… well, the sort of books my husband wouldn’t touch with a barge pole even if I told him they were really good ( I do not live with a bridge brain).
So can you help me out here? With which books should we test Dark Puss’s strongly held belief that there is no such thing as a book intended only for women?
ETA Here’s a few that crossed my mind as possible choices:
Judith Krantz – Scruples
Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones’ Diary
Meg Rosoff – How I Live Now/Shannon Hale – Goose Girl (I’m sure there must be some YA titles)
Meg Wolitzer – The Ten Year Nap
Curtis Sittenfeld – Prep
Mary Stewart – This Rough Magic
If you know men who raved about these, let me know and I can cross them off the list.