Women Writers in the News

Two female writers have been in the news (at least in the UK) this week.

First J.K. Rowling. Remember when The Casual Vacancy came out? I wrote a blog saying if I was J.K. Rowling I’d release my next book under a pseudonym. Well, it turns out she did just that, writing the crime novel Cuckoos Calling under the name Robert Galbraith, and keeping it very secret – until a lawyer told one of his wife’s friends (in strictest confidence, of course!), and then it the secret reached Twitter…

The book had been out a couple of months before the secret got out. Reports vary between how many it sold – between 500 and 1500, but that’s not bad for a new hardback by an unknown writer, that hasn’t been promoted at all. Most importantly, it got good reviews.

Of course, now everyone knows it’s by J.K. Rowling, various people are saying its rubbish, it’s boring, the whole thing was a publicity stunt (as if J.K. Rowling needs more publicity). I haven’t read the book myself (yet) but personally, I think she did the right thing. It must have been wonderful to read those reviews knowing the critics weren’t influenced by anything but the writing in front of them.

The other female writer in the news is Jane Austen. Elizabeth Fry is being taken off the five pound note, and someone noticed that this meant there were no women on our bank notes (except the Queen, of course). So, it’s been decided that Jane Austen will be on the ten pound note. Whilst delighted by this, I can’t help but feel the conversation went like this;

First Person – we need a woman on a bank note or people will think we’re prejudiced!
Second Person – we can’t have that. Quick, think of a famous woman with a good picture!
First Person – umm…famous women, famous women…some writers are women.
Second Person – brilliant idea, that way we can cover the arts too. But who?
First Person – that book all that woman keep reading…
Second Person – we can’t put Shades of Grey on a bank note!
First Person – no, no, the other one, she hates him, then she loves him, then she thinks he hates her…
Second Person – oh, Bridget Jones’ Diary.
First Person – yes, but the old one. Jane Thingummy. Wrote Pride and …potatoes or something.
Quick Wikipedia Search later.
Second Person – Jane Austen! Brilliant.
First Person – that was exhausting.

I know I’m mocking slightly, and in truth I shall be happy to see Jane when I go shopping. I would be happier if I felt the people who designed the note had actually read Jane Austen – but I suspect not. Because of all the quotes about reading and books in Jane Austen’s work (not to mention a few sharp remarks about money) they chose ‘I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading’ – a remark uttered in all untruthfulness by Caroline Bingley in yet another vain attempt to capture Mr Darcy’s attention. I suspect it might have been lifted from a book of quotations.


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