Publication Date: 20 April 2021
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Illustrator: Kaley Bales
Genre: Nonfiction, Biographies
Strong Point: The combination of the lives of the authors and the illustrations is just perfect.
Weak Point: Any!
Books on Tour Rating: (5/5)
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.99/5)
“WHY SHE WROTE: A GRAPHIC HISTORY OF THE LIVES, INSPIRATION, AND INFLUENCE BEHIND THE PENS OF CLASSIC WOMEN WRITERS”
That I love literature I think it is clear. That Classics is one of my favourite genres it is also true. For these two reasons, when I saw that this book was available in NetGalley, I did not hesitate to ask for it.
The book tells the summarised biographies of 18 Classic Women writers such as George Elliot, Jane Austen, Alice Dunbar or Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.
Then, focusing on one important moment in their lives, the narration turns into graphic novel, and we are told about that inflection point in the life of the writer but narrated with images. That is, the reason why these women wrote.
STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK
The book is divided in six sections, each one with a “common characteristic” shared by the authors highlighted in that segment.
The sections are: “The Horror of Everyday”, “Finding their voice”, “Activism as Art”, “Private Lives”, “Public Identities”, and “Protection and Profit”.
Then, Chapman and Burke introduce the reason why these three writers wrote. In the first section, for example, the three authors wrote about Gothic elements easily found in their every day lives, like “gloomy atmosphere, wild landscapes, castle ruins, and supernatural twists and turns”. However, they struggled as this new genre was considered inferior to the ones which male authors wrote in.
Later on, in each of the sections, three classic women writers are shown as an example of each topic. For instance, in the section about “The Horror of Everyday”, the authors narrate the lives of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Ann Radcliffe and Charlotte Brontë, the three of them famous for their “Gothic” novels.
Afterwards, each writer is introduced by a lovely illustration from artist Kaley Bales, and a quote from one of their works.
The comprehensive introduction of the writer’s life is quite short, of course. The book doesn’t pretend to be a “History of Literature”. But for someone who doesn’t know anything about the author, it is a good start.
At the end of the synopsis, the “inflection point” is introduced, and words lead to images. Illustrations then explain that important moment in the writer’s life. With Mary Wollstonecraft, for example, we find her struggling to find a topic for her novel, which later turned to be “Frankenstein”.
After the illustrations, the authors included the “selected works” of each author, for the reader to continue learning about them.
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT “WHY SHE WROTE”
It has been a real pleasure to being able to remember the lives of some of the authors I have so much loved during the last 30 years of my reading life.
I knew about the majority of them; of a couple, I just knew their name. So reading this book has served me to grow my incredibly long TBR list.
However, it has been even more interesting to realize how all these women had struggled to reach their objective. They were all at some point rejected by society in general, not only by men. Some of them for being a woman, others for being Black and a woman.
But in the end they all succeeded. They are all big names in literature. And their lives should be told so that we don’t forget that persevering and hard work is the only way to reach your goals.
In my opinion, the combination of the written text and the illustrations makes this book very special. The illustrations by Kaley Bales, drawn in comic style, are gorgeous. Furthermore, she has captured the essence of the stories exceedingly well.
I will definitely buy a copy once it is published. It is a book that deserves to be owned. It is a beauty, as most of the books of Chronicle Books of which I own a couple.
I would strongly suggest you to subscribe to Chapman and Burke’s Podcast “Bonnets at Dawn”.