The best thing about this quick, opinionated survey of 20th-century British fiction written by women is its wonderful...

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BEYOND THE LIGHTHOUSE: English Women Novelists in the Twentieth Century

The best thing about this quick, opinionated survey of 20th-century British fiction written by women is its wonderful 21-page bibliography: capacious, catholic, open to all genres. As for the book itself, it's catholic too, covering a great many writers. But the criticism is too superficial and off-the-cuff to ring with much authority. Crosland (translator of Cocteau and Colette) rates Dorothy Richardson more highly than Virginia Woolf; she loathes Ivy Compton-Burnett (finds no love there, only hate) and Margaret Drabble; there is a puffish encomium to Caroline Blackwood and some other endorsements that sound dandy but don't hold up to serious examination. (On Margiad Evan's 1936 Creed: ""No author, woman or man, ever wrote a book like it. If new readers find it strange or old-fashioned then they should realize they have lapsed into a citified, armchair way of life and they had better get out of it before total desiccation sets in."") And though there's often a nice, gutsy, brass-tacks tone--""Is Fay Weldon's realism too painful? It ought not to be, because it is about something that won't go away, women's suffering and women's silliness, for something in them makes them consider suffering as inevitable""--it's never developed into a genuine critical essay. Some welcome appreciations, then (of May Sinclair, Christina Stead, Ann Quill), and that useful book-list--but mostly this is base-touching of the most superficial sort, and too quirky to serve as a straightforward, objective reference.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1981

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Taplinger

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981

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