Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
In her introduction to this study, Donoghue (a noted novelist and essayist whose novels include Slammerkin and Life Mask) writes that "it is high time to let readers of all stripes hear about and enjoy the whole range of literature about desire between women, whether romantic or smutty, thrilling or funny, and with bloody fanged fiends included too." An astute reader of the Western literary tradition, the author unearths the stories of women loving women, from the cross-dressing antics of Shakespeare's plays to novels about lesbian vampires, school girls in love, women fleeing husbands for other women, doomed love triangles, murder, or coming out in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite the many obstacles these women have endured under the literary heterosexual paradigm (man will get his woman in the end), Donahue finds them discovering, struggling, and, finally, embracing their desire for other women. Superb by any measure, this book is a treat from beginning to end and a gem for those interested in women's studies, gender studies, and literary criticism. Summing Up: Essential. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, general readers. C. Machado Norwalk Community College
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"The past is a wild party; check your preconceptions at the door," warns British literary historian and novelist Donoghue (Slammerkin) in her comprehensive catalogue of a thousand years of Western literature. "[I]n Western culture passion between women is always a big deal, whether presented as glorious or shameful, angelic or monstrous," she claims. These passions are not always, strictly speaking, lesbian, Donoghue says, as she sorts them into categories (e.g., cross-dressing and the resulting "Åaccident' of same-sex desire'Å"; women friends who remain inseparable despite all obstacles). She links them to historical developments and deciphers their sometimes obscure language. "Morbid," for example, was often a code word for "lesbian" in the 19th century. Delivering on her promise of a wild party, Donoghue reads Clarissa as a rivalry between Lovelace and Anna for Clarissa's heart; she considers Jane Eyre as an early schoolgirl novel (note Jane's crush on her schoolmate Helen), whose form would be adapted by early lesbian coming-out novels. With her excellent reading list, readers can test for themselves the "unexpected continuity" Donoghue finds in the presence of passion between women in Western literature. 19 photos. (May 26) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Donoghue (Slammerkin), a prolific writer of fiction and literary history, spent over 12 years on this indispensable work, examining desire between women characters found mainly in English, French, and other Western literary works that span the Middle Ages to modern times. She analyzes numerous titles as diverse as Shakespeare's As You Like It, Diderot's La Religieuse, Dickens's Little Dorrit, and 20th-century pulp fiction. She divides her analysis into six chapters inspired by the popular plot motifs created when representing attraction between women: "travesties," "inseparables," "rivals," "monsters," "detection," and "out." The literature discussed here portrays female-female desire but with great variation. The chapter on monsters, for example, demonstrates how negatively this type of desire was often depicted, while the "coming out" chapter highlights how this depiction has changed in the past 40 years. Donoghue also acknowledges the few works that anticipated societal transformations and tolerance decades before they occurred. VERDICT For all readers interested in this subject and GLBT, women's studies, and Western literature scholars.-Erica Swenson Danowitz, Delaware Cty. Community Coll., Media, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Spanning centuries and genres, literary critic and novelist Donoghue's thorough, scholarly, and consistently entertaining tour through Western literature seeking different approaches to stories about women who love women establishes a family tree of lesbian motifs found in everything from medieval romances to Shakespeare to Victorian novels to mysteries. She cites six intriguing thematic categories: gender-bending disguise plots, variations on like seeks like or birds of a feather, rivals and conflicts, cautionary tales (some featuring the lesbian sex fiend ), narratives shaped by homoeroticism and the discovery of a crime, and the quest for self-knowledge via the coming-out story, which dominates the contemporary eras. With photographs, suggested readings, and other auxiliary materials, Donoghue's fresh interpretative literary investigation of lesbian love stories is ensured a place in special and general collections.--Scott, Whitney Copyright 2010 Booklist