We’re making 2019 the year of reading women here at VINTAGE - we’ve paired a brand new release alongside a well-loved classic to honour the wonderful women who are constantly rewriting the landscape of women’s literature. From Wollstonecraft to Morrison, Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited prequel to The Handmaid’s Tale to Jeanette Winterson’s artificial intelligence love story inspired by Frankenstein; it’s a list that promises to be anything but dull. Join us in a year of challenging ourselves to listen, hear and respond to some of the greatest female writers history has to offer.
In January we're re-reading Atwood's classic The Handmaid’s Tale in preparation for the release of The Testaments, the long-awaited return to dystopian Gilead, later this year. If you haven't read the 1985 classic, now is the time to pick it up for the first time or refresh your memory. We're pairing it with a new collection of equally dark, biting prose - celebrated Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha's Apple and Knife. It's a perfectly mixed cocktail of horror and twisted fairy tales, with women brought fiercely into centre stage. We're raring to dive into the inevitable debates about control and the female body that, together, they're bound to ignite.
In February we'll be picking up two tales of women who walk out of their lives: Edna Pontellier who, in Chopin's The Awakening, walks away from the constraints of 19th century family life, and the narrator of Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation, who retreats from her luxurious life in Upper East Side Manhattan and all its attached pressures, to undertake an experiment in narcotic hibernation. We're looking forward to a discussion on subverting expectation, living for yourself and the consequences of both, however wonderful or ghastly.
We couldn’t spend a year reading women without picking up this game-changing author – and, as she remains unparallelled, who better to read alongside Toni Morrison than Toni Morrison? We’re reading the 1980s classic Beloved, set in mid-1800s Kentucky during an era when slavery is under attack from the abolitionists. It’s perfectly paired with her new essay collection A Mouth Full of Blood, spanning four decades of essays, speeches and meditations – and includes her modern reflections on Beloved; reassessing the novel that has become a touchstone for generations of readers. It’s a perfect opportunity to revisit her work or (no shame) discover it for the first time.
The term feminism did not yet exist when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Her work made the first ripples of what would later become the tidal wave of the women’s rights movement. 260 years on from her birth, we’re looking to modern-day campaigner Caroline Criado Perez to hear what has been done and what still needs to change. Invisible Women looks at the ‘gender data gap’ and inspects, by numbers, the ways in which the world is still built for men.
Seeing Keira Knightly in Colette this year has made us determined to read some of Colette’s original writing - admired by Proust and Gide, her sequence ‘Claudine’ was written under duress and originally published under her husband’s name. Gigi is probably her most famous novel, and is accompanied in this volume by her short story, The Cat. Once free she became an actress, much like the author we’re pairing her with - Zawe Ashton. She has played many different roles, from the ‘cute little girl’ to ‘assassin with attitude', Oscar Wilde’s Salome to St Trinian’s schoolgirl to Fresh Meat’s Vod - her book explores treading a high-wire between life and art as a woman, and learning your own identity. We think Colette would have identified with the themes of Character Breakdown, and we can’t wait to read them side by side.
‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful'.
Written when 19, Shelley's gothic tale is one of the greatest horror stories ever published. But what can Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein say to us today, how has our power changed and our fears shifted? What will happen when homo sapiens are no longer the smartest beings on the planet? We’re reading Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissstein alongside the original Frankenstein to explore reinvention, artificial intelligence and bodily autonomy in a world of shifting power.
In July we're reading one of the most highly anticipated debuts of 2019, What Red Was by Rosie Price. Alongside it we'll be reading Rosie's own choice of classic, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway.
Rosie says, 'Like Virginia Woolf¹s Septimus, the protagonist of my own novel finds herself isolated by her experience of trauma, forced to sacrifice her integrity in order to survive. This is what is both courageous and compelling about Mrs Dalloway: the writer's impulse to find a language capable of expressing individual suffering in a society that prefers it silenced.'
Angela Carter’s 1979 classic The Bloody Chamber set a precedent for women writing dark, uncouth fairy tale retellings that have sharp teeth – and we’ve been enjoying the effects on literature ever since. Following very much in her footsteps, Roupenian’s You Know You Want This is her first collection after her New Yorker short story Cat Person went viral and sparked international discussions about the era of sexual anxiety and #MeToo. Together, they help us map attitudes towards female menace, forbidden topics and sexual deviance across the decades. It’s going to be delicious.
The role of the female scientist has long been a contentious one, so when it comes to the wealth of research now available from women in science, we determined to get stuck in. Looking at our inward life, professor of cognitive neuroimaging Gina Rippon asks in The Gendered Brain if we have a ‘male brain’ or a ‘female brain’ – and if that’s even possible? And looking outwards, Gaia Vince quits her job to travel the world in Adventures in the Anthropocene and find out how human behaviour has altered our planet, and the ingenious solutions we have to engineer Earth for the future.
In October we’ll be looking to two women who tell it like it is – Afua Hirsch and Sarah Schulman. Sarah Schulman’s People in Trouble is a vivid, blistering 1990 novel about a queer love triangle thrown into crisis by the onset of AIDS, featuring a fictionalised Donald Trump as its villain and written by a core member of ACT UP. Hirsch’s more recent Brit(ish) confronts a nation in denial about its imperial past and the racism that plagues its present. We're looking foward to reading these side by side and thinking about how we can campaign for real change.
In November we’re serving up a double-topian whammy. First, the feminist dystopia everyone has been waiting for – Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments picks up the story 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead. And as an alkali, the feminist utopia classic Herland, where a community of women living in perfect isolation in the Amazon dare to threaten the very concept of male superiority.
We’re rounding off the year with two regal women. Lady Leshurr, queen of the grime scene, is a voice that needs to be heard. A woman from Birmingham, she reigns in a male-dominated scene thanks to the strength of her talent and grit. Now she brings the attitude and integrity, humour and honesty that underpin her lyrics to The Queen Speaks. We’re pairing her story with Mitford - because is the perfect time to read Mitford and because Madame de Pompadour tells the story of how Jeanne-Antoinette rises against a backdrop of savage social-climbing, intrigue, excess and high drama, to become the most powerful women of the 18th century French court, Le Pompadour. Bring on the queens.
Excited to read women in 2019 with us? Join the VINTAGE WOMEN Book Club on Facebook to chat about the wonderful books by women we're reading, all year long.
Sign up to the VINTAGE newsletter