The unsatisfactory situation regarding my kitchen drain is dragging on, and I'm not going to lie, it's getting me down, but it's my weekend off. I'm going to see The Taming of the Shrew at the RSC tomorrow, and whatever else is going badly at the moment I have an indecent amount of books to get excited about.
I've also been thinking all day about what kind of book list I might put together for International Women's Day. Or lists. There are so many avenues to explore. In the end though I don't know that I can do better than recommend the two books I'm reading and the one I bought on my way home. Between them they cover a lot of ground.
The book I bought is Melissa Harrison's 'All Among the Barley'. I've been waiting for this to come out in paperback (hardbacks take up to much space in an already overcrowded flat) and am really looking forward to reading it. Harrison is one of the relatively few contemporary writers I'm interested in. 'At Hawthorne Time' was spectacular, and I've enjoyed everything else I've read by her (Rain, and various articles) as well as the seasonal nature anthologies she edited. Everything about 'All Among the Barley' sounds good to me.
I've been reading 'The Old Man in the Corner' by Baroness Orczy slowly. It's a series of mysteries and solutions related to a young female journalist by an annoying old man - each one is spread over 2 or 3 chapters, and whilst I've had no problem spotting who done it so far it's a fun book. If I'd been making a list I'd have put Georgette Heyer on it at this point because I absolutely do think of her as a feminist icon (God alone knows what she'd have made of that, probably not much, but she's interesting if sometimes problematic, and I'll endlessly defend my high opinion of her).
Orczy does something similar to Heyer in that they both do a good line in independent heroines and demonstrate that there have always been successful women hidden more or less in plain sight. Because I'd read books by Orczy and Heyer as a child I knew that there was a history of commercially successful women writers which in turn meant that the handful of 'Classic', canonical authors weren't the anomalies they are sometimes still presented as, but part of a much wider tradition.
When I started exploring down this particular track my whole perception of women's place in history changed. Our voices are woven all through it if you have the patience to look for them. The question is who keeps silencing those voices, and why?
And last but not least is Lynn Enright's amazing 'Vagina A Re-Education'. This is an overdue, important, book. I've had to stop reading it at night because it gives me to much to think about and I can't sleep. I'll be writing a lot more about this very soon, but my god I wish I could have read something like this 30 years ago - it would have made a huge difference to my life if I'd had some of these words and knowledge a bit earlier. It is quite possibly the most empowering thing I've ever read.