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Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives (Hardcover)
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Ian McEwan once said, 'When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.' This book explains how precious fiction is to contemporary women readers, and how they draw on it to tell the stories of their lives. Female readers are key to the future of fiction and--as parents, teachers, and librarians--the glue for a literate society. Women treasure the chance to read alone, but have also gregariously shared reading experiences and memories with mothers, daughters, grandchildren, and female friends. For so many, reading novels and short stories enables them to escape and to spread their wings intellectually and emotionally. This book, written by an experienced teacher, scholar of women's writing, and literature festival director, draws on over 500 interviews with and questionnaires from women readers and writers. It describes how, where, and when women read fiction, and examines why stories and writers influence the way female readers understand and shape their own life stories. Taylor explores why women are the main buyers and readers of fiction, members of book clubs, attendees at literary festivals, and organisers of days out to fictional sites and writers' homes. The book analyses the special appeal and changing readership of the genres of romance, erotica, and crime. It also illuminates the reasons for women's abiding love of two favourite novels, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Taylor offers a cornucopia of witty and wise women's voices, of both readers themselves and also writers such as Hilary Mantel, Helen Dunmore, Katie Fforde, and Sarah Dunant. The book helps us understand why--in Jackie Kay's words--'our lives are mapped by books.'
About the Author
Helen Taylor is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Exeter, Honorary Fellow of the British Association of American Studies, and Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow 2016-18. She has taught English and American literature at the universities of the West of England, Bristol, Warwick, and Exeter, where she was Head of the School of English. A specialist in literature and culture of the American South and women's writing, she has published widely in both areas. Her books include Scarlett's Women: Gone With the Wind and its Female Fans (1989, reprinted 2014), Circling Dixie: Contemporary Southern Culture through a Transatlantic Lens (2001), and The Daphne du Maurier Companion (2007), as well as a BFI Film Classic on Gone With the Wind (2015). Curator, Chair, and participant in many literature festivals, she was the first Director of the Liverpool Literary Festival, 2016 and 2018.