Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives

Oxford Univ. Mar. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9780198827689. pap. $18.95. LIT
To understand why a significantly large portion (63 percent) of fiction sales go to women, Taylor (emerita, English, Univ. of Exeter; Scarlett’s Women) conducted interviews and sent questionnaires related to women’s reading habits to British writers such as Bidisha, Jasper Fforde, and Hilary Mantel. This research informs this three-part book, which reveals, not unsurprisingly, that women read different types of genre fiction (romance, crime fiction, and some sf) for various reasons. Taylor notes that through fiction women find escape and deepen their empathy. She explores what many women read as young girls (Little Women, The Secret Garden) and thoroughly analyzes two novels (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre) most cited by her survey/interview respondents. Taylor also discusses the important role book clubs, literary bloggers, book festivals, and literary tourism can have in boosting fiction sales. Her discussion of the gendering of literature and how “too feminine” book covers can influence a works’ success is particularly fascinating.
VERDICT Though long overdue, this satisfying offering comes at a time when women are working harder than ever to secure their rightful place in the literary canon. Recommended enthusiasts of lit crit, feminist studies, and publishing.
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