When the bongs sounded at midnight on New Year’s Day 2011, I was half way through Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I mean, not literally right at that moment. Right at that moment, I was staggering around my friend Oli’s living room in Leytonstone, swigging something fizzy and aiming bleary kisses at some of my nearest and dearest. But upstairs, in my rucksack, was a copy of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall with a bookmark stuck somewhere in the centre pages.
I don’t know if you’ve come across a copy of Wolf Hall, but if you have you’ll know that it’s a serious hunk of tree. A doorstop. A tome, if you will. And as such, it ain’t the sort of reading matter you can whip through in an hour on your morning commute. In fact I was several weeks into the new year and several travel cards down before I turned the final page and read the last words (‘Wolf Hall’, in case you were wondering).
By that stage my birthday had been and gone, bringing with it a Kindle from the boy (lucky old me). I decided to take advantage of the rock-bottom classics prices to fill in a few gaps in my literary education and downloaded Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince, followed by Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm.
By the time I had made my way through these, February was under way and it occurred to me that I had spent the first month of 2011 reading exclusively women. Also, that this was really unusual for me: despite being a woman writer myself, I probably read four male authors for every female and have to confess to the vestiges of a sneaking, ingrained suspicion (where it comes from, I’m not quite sure) that maybe we girls just aren’t as good when it comes to picking up a pen.
So I made it my mission to devote 2011, the last year of my twenties, to reading books by women and trying to see what we have got to say to the world. Some of the books will be things that I have wanted to read for ages, others will be things I stumble across by chance (oh, and if you have any suggestions, please let me know). This is by no means systematic or scientific, but it will be my honest thoughts on women’s lit as I find it. I reserve the right to be partial, provocative and wrong.
I graduated from Cambridge University with a first in English Literature and went on to do a master’s in Creative Writing at UEA. I worked for the Victorian Society, a heritage charity, for nearly four years before doing a course in sub-editing at the London College of Communication and jumping into life as a freelance writer and sub. Credits include features for the Australian, BBC Music Magazine and the South London Press, and I now work mostly on contract magazines at the Guardian.
I published my first novel, A Breathless Hush in the Close, through youwriteon in December 2008 and am now getting to grips with novel number two. Alongside this, I work as a freelance choral singer and soloist, appearing regularly as part of a professional octet at St Columba’s Church in Knightsbridge.