Nancy Mitford’s tragicomic novel demonstrates the unglamorous acts of love that come from sustained, tested friendships, and it’s from these relationships that the book mines much of its celebrated humor and its overlooked, but just as important, compassion.
Betsy Bonner’s new memoir offers no solutions for the gap between the idea of unconditional love and limited human experience. Less an exorcism than a tribute, it strives to make every stylistic quirk mirror the halting but deeply-felt contours of her relationship with her sister.
Never losing sight of the sensibilities that make the protagonist of her 1860 novel fallibly, achingly human, George Eliot also venerates Maggie Tulliver’s passions and feelings, suggesting that the path to virtue may not lie in rigidity and conventional moralism, but in the volatile, messy outpourings of the human
Helen Fielding’s 1996 novel uses the journal format for its intense relatability, leading to a claustrophobic portrayal of the intrusive nature of societal expectations that never lets up, even when its heroine finds herself pulled into madcap office romances and a time-share embezzlement scheme.
Michelle McNamara’s authorial absence mirrors the lack of emotional closure in the case of the Golden State Killer, both in the historical moment when her book was being composed and the perpetrator was still unidentified, and post-conviction, when comprehension still remains out of reach.
Allegory isn’t always known for its nuance. It’s this rigidity that Nghi Vo’s 2022 novel questions, challenging the assumption that readers can make idea value judgements based on an individual’s experience in an inherently corrupt system.
Didion’s books seem to teeter over a precipice, seeing the rocks at the bottom and grimly awaiting the final push. However dire the current landscape may be, Didion sees it as a precursor instead of an end.
When read together, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s tale reveals the realism peeking behind the frame of Shirley Jackson’s, and Jackson’s short story illuminates the otherworldly horror plaguing the narrator of Perkins Gilman’s.
In both L.M. Montgomery’s 1926 novel and Irving Rapper’s 1942 film, self-knowledge is a powerful diagnostic tool that needs to be harnessed to decision making in order to affect lasting change. Both works subsequently insist on the validity of their heroines’ choices.
When viewing Josephine Rowe’s 2016 novel through the perspective of faltering chronology and layered trauma mimicking scar tissue, a fuller sense of its compassion and artistry falls into place.