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Outsiders tells the stories of five novelists – Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner, Virginia Woolf – and their famous novels.
We have long known their individual greatness but in linking their creativity to their lives as outsiders, this group biography throws new light on the genius they share. ‘Outsider’, ‘outlaw’, ‘outcast’: a woman’s reputation was her security and each of these five lost it. As writers, they made these identities their own, taking advantage of their separation from the dominant order to write their novels.
All five were motherless. With no female model at hand, they learnt from books; and if lucky, from an enlightened man; and crucially each had to imagine what a woman could be in order to invent a voice of their own. They understood female desire: the passion and sexual bravery in their own lives infused their fictions.
What they have in common also is the way they inform one another, and us, across the generations. Even today we do more than read them; we listen and live with them.
Lyndall Gordon’s biographies have always shown the indelible connection between life and art: an intuitive, exciting and revealing approach that has been highly praised and much read and enjoyed. She names each of these five as prodigy, visionary, outlaw, orator and explorer and shows how they came, they saw and left us changed.
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