Friday, July 12, 2013

Ten top female writers' favorite books

For forty years Virago has dedicated itself solely to publishing women’s writing. To mark the anniversary, ten female authors chose their favorite books from Virago's backlist.

Lionel Shriver's pick:
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)

I love virtually all of Edith Wharton, but this one’s my favourite. As ever her prose style is artful rather than arty. She’s eloquent but never fussy, and always clear. She never seems to write well to show off. This is a poignant story about a man who seems happily married, but then falls fatally in love with a woman whose own broken marriage has marked her as a social pariah. It illustrates the bind both sexes find themselves in when trapped between the demands of convention and the demands of the heart. The novel is romantic but not sentimental, and I’m a sucker for unhappy endings. Wharton is something of an icon for me, a lone female writer in an era dominated by heavy-hitting males. Her skilful portrayal of the early 1900s helps me to appreciate our staggering good fortune, ladies, to live a century later.
Read about another book on the list.

The Age of Innocence also appears on Therese Anne Fowler's list of 6 favorite books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on Gilded Age New York, Frances Kiernan's five best list of books that helped her understand the ways of New York society and David Kamp's list of six books that are notable for their food prose, and is among Elaine Sciolino's six favorite books, Mika Brzezinski's 6 best books and Honor Blackman's 6 best books.

--Marshal Zeringue