Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ten books about maverick women

Mary Watson, winner of the 2006 Caine prize for African writing for her short story "Jungfrau" from her 2004 collection Moss, writes in The Guardian of books about maverick women.

The book that gave the list its theme:

Maverick Women by Lauren Beukes

The book that inspired this list. Lauren Beukes invites a host of unusual South African woman to a party: there's a stripper who danced with a snake, a woman who maintained a long term, long distance relationship with an alien (they visited occasionally), as well as familiar figures in a the South African cultural landscape like the music diva Brenda Fassie and Helen Martins of the owl house.

Click here for an interview with Lauren Beukes.

Also on Watson's list:

Property by Valerie Martin

Beautifully written, this book stretches taut between two women: one a slave whose sullen sensuality creeps out from between the lines, the other the owner's repressed wife. The elegant, precise prose contrasts with an underlying unease which simmers then eventually erupts.

Laura Miller wrote in Salon:
Property is a ferociously honest book attacking a subject that has long been wrapped in what her heroine calls "lies without end": race in America. So much ink has been spilled on the topic, and so much of it pabulum and equivocation, that you wouldn't think any writer could find a way to make it fresh or show you anything new, but Martin has. Property is the kind of novel that reminds you that literary fiction still has the power to take us where no other art form can, and that in doing so it can remake the way we understand ourselves.
Click here to read an excerpt from Property.

Margaret Atwood also made the list:

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Selecting my favourite of Margaret Atwood's books is a hard task, and The Blind Assassin beats The Handmaid's Tale by a hair's breadth. Which beats Alias Grace only just.

Click here to read an excerpt from The Blind Assassin.

The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize. Click here to see if I thought the novel deserved it.

Click here to read about all ten titles proposed by Mary Watson.

Nana Wilson-Tagoe, the chair of the committee that awarded Watson the Caine prize for African writing, praised Watson's story:
It is a powerfully written narrative that works skilfully through a child's imagination to suggest a world of insights about familial and social relationships in the new South Africa. It is superbly written and does what a short story should do, by leaving spaces around its narrative into which readers can enter again and again.
--Marshal Zeringue