Saturday, February 11, 2023

What is Caroline Lea reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Caroline Lea, author of Prize Women: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
Woman having babies for money sounds like a pitch for a dystopian fiction; however, Prize Women is based on true events, inspired by the real-life drama which ensued when a Toronto lawyer died in 1926 and left the majority of his vast fortune to the woman who could have the greatest number of babies in the ten years following his death. Today, in a space where women’s bodily autonomy is being challenged and their bodily rights slowly stolen away, my book feels horrifyingly relevant, and it is this that has shaped many of the books I have been reading and rereading over the past months.

As I approach publication, I’ve been increasingly drawn to novels which pit women and their bodily ownership against social expectations: Women Talking by Miriam Toews focuses on true events in an isolated religious community: over a number of years, the women were drugged and raped by the men in their village, who then tried to convince the women that they'd been attacked by Satan. The incident is unspeakably horrific, but Toews gives voices and agency to the women as they debate whether they should stay, leave, or fight the men. Gentle humour in the face of horror and bonds between women are themes in Prize Women too – the Toronto 'baby race' put women on trial, without ever giving them a real voice: their words were filtered by journalists and twisted by gossip -- something that feels both pertinent and horribly relatable to readers almost a century later.

Although Prize Women is based on real events, it's alarmingly easy to make comparisons with novels set in dystopian societies: I’ve recently reread The Handmaid's Tale, as well as...[read on]
About Prize Women, from the publisher:
The critically acclaimed author of The Glass Woman and The Metal Heart reimagines the shocking story of one of the most controversial contests in history, the Great Stork Derby, in which a millionaire’s death spawns a furious competition for his inheritance.

Toronto, 1926. Knowing that he will die without an heir, childless millionaire Charles Millar leaves behind a controversial will: the recipient of his fortune will be decided in a contest that will become a media sensation and be known as the Great Stork Derby. His money will go to the winner: the woman who bears the most children in the ten years after his death. It is a bequest that will have dramatic consequences for the lives of two women—allies and close friends.Lily di Marco is young, pregnant, and terrified of her alcoholic, violent husband. When her town is damaged by an earthquake, she flees to Toronto, arriving, by chance, on the doorstep of the glamourous Mae Thebault.

While Mae presents an elegant, confident face to the world, she secretly struggles with her own tortured past and a present consumed with the never-ending burdens of motherhood. Lily enters her life at a breaking point, and soon a fierce friendship blossoms between the women. That is until the Great Depression and the contest, with its alluring prize, threatens to tear their friendship—and their lives—apart.

Prize Women is an evocative and engrossing novel of motherhood, survival, and the heartbreaking decisions we make to protect the ones we love—even when it hurts those we care for most.
Follow Caroline Lea on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Glass Woman.

My Book, The Movie: The Glass Woman.

My Book, The Movie: The Metal Heart.

Q&A with Caroline Lea.

The Page 69 Test: The Metal Heart.

Writers Read: Caroline Lea.

--Marshal Zeringue