Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Literary Ladies-A Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas

The Literary Ladies-A Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas (2011, 192 pages)

The Literary Ladies-A Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas is an excellent look at the creative process as seen through the lives and writings of twelve famous very successful female authors of the 19th and 20th century.    The book focuses on how the authors came to write the books they wrote.   Some wrote out of a need for money, some wrote to express themselves, some because they felt driven to do so.   Atlas covers Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Madeleine L'Engle, L. M.  Montgomery,  Anais Nin, George Sand, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Warton and Virginia Woolf.

Of the authors covered in The Literary Ladies-A Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas I have read and posted  on Charlotte Bronte, Edna Farber,   Madeline L'Engle, George Sand, Edith Warton, and Virginia Woolf.

Atlas has read extensively and deeply in the letters and diaries of the writers she talks about to learn how they felt about the craft and art of writing and how they dealt with the same sort of work/life issues that writers face today.    Instead of being arranged by writer with a chapter devoted to each writer, the book is arranged around topics.   I enjoyed the chapters on working mothers, starting out, dealing with rejection a really lot and also the good bit of talk about literary husbands.   Atlas cites Leonard Woolf as the best of them.   Atlas provides very well done portraits of each of the writers.   She quotes from the letters and journals of the writers she speaks about.

I have posted extensively on two authors that Atlas does not talk about,  Katherine Mansfield and Elizabeth Bowen.    I think they would make very interesting additions to her study.   Katherine Mansfield in her short life struggled self consciously with writing and keeping her artistic integrity while having serious personal issues.   Elizabeth Bowen for me epitomizes the mature successful writing life of a woman in control of her own life.

Atlas says she wanted to cover Zola Hurston but could not find a lot of material by her as it relates to the writing process.   I would love to have read Atlas's thoughts on Jean Rhys!    Of course one can only cover so much

I really liked this book a lot.   Physically it is a beautiful book with lots of interesting illustrations.    It is very informative and inspirational.   It also contains lots of good reading suggestions.

I would endorse this book  primarily to school librarians.    Even in times of limited budgets,   I think this would be a much requested book.   I will give the book now to the most literary of my three daughters.

I received a  copy of this book from the author.

Nava Atlas is the author of several well known vegetarian cook books and a graphic artist.  
Mel u


Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Great review, Mel! I just won this book today from BookTrib and I'm so thrilled!

How are the kitties doing?

Suzanne said...

This sounds like an interesting book -- thanks for the review.

Joanne Ganley said...

This sounds like something I'd like to read. What a pity Katherine Mansfield isn't included, though. Thanks for the review.

Nava Atlas said...

Thanks for running this, Mel. I did quote Katherine Mansfield in the book but in the end I had to narrow the ladies down to the twelve that wrote the most, and most poignantly, about the writing of life. I appreciate your thoughtful review.

Anonymous said...

Great review, Mel! The book sounds ideal for school librarians, and English teachers as well, of course.

I have read too few of these ladies to make it interesting for me, I think, but the book sounds fantastic for those who know the writers better.

Mel u said...

leeswammes-it is thanks to your suggestion I read this book for which I thank you-it would make an excellent library book for schools