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Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed the World; Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner

Gordon, Lyndall. Johns Hopkins. Mar. 2019. 352p. index. ISBN 9781421429441. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781421429458. LIT
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OrangeReviewStarIn chapters titled "Prodigy," "Visionary," "Outlaw," "Orator," and "Explorer," Gordon (fellow, St. Hilda's Coll., Oxford; Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds) probes the lives of five groundbreaking authors: Mary Shelley (1797–1851), Emily Brontë (1818–48), Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), George Eliot (1819–80), and Olive Schreiner (1855–1920). While Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney's A Secret Sisterhood explored the friendships among several of these same writers, Gordon's work emphasizes their isolation, revealing how each used this sense of exile—along with their shared experience of maternal loss—to invent her own unique voice. The narrative opens with the scandalous details of "prodigy" Shelley's elopement with Percy Bysshe Shelley, immediately hooking readers before delving into her literary achievements. Gordon maintains this level of engagement throughout—a feat that becomes especially notable in the chapter on Brontë, about whom relatively little is known. The result is a fascinating study that fully supports the author's thesis.
VERDICT Highly recommended for both academic and general readers interested in women's literature and history.

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