Monday, October 31, 2011

Five best novels with spinster protagonists

Helen Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria in 1984 and moved to London when she was four. She is the author of The Icarus Girl, The Opposite House, White is for Witching, which won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award, and, most recently, Mr Fox.

One of her five best books with a spinster protagonist, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Bunner Sisters
by Edith Wharton (1916)

'I always think if we ask for more what we have may be taken from us," Ann Eliza Bunner murmurs to her younger sister, Evelina. It's late-19th-century New York City and the Bunner sisters run a shop that does an uncertain trade in "artificial flowers, bands of scalloped flannel, wire hat-frames, and jars of home-made preserves." This is a story of the saddest magnificence. Evelina is the bolder sister—she accepts an unsuitable marriage proposal, moves away with her husband and no good comes of it. Ann Eliza stays alone in New York and struggles to maintain a fineness of spirit: "She saw the form of Solitude at her door. Ann Eliza was but a small person to harbour so great a guest, and a trembling sense of insufficiency possessed her. She had no high musings to offer to the new companion of her hearth." Ann Eliza is the braver sister; ultimately she has courage enough for both herself and Evelina.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue