In honour of the month of the WOM4N, a 4×4 of some of 4th Estate’s most seminal, inspiring books about being one or another kind of girl…
Be Awesome by Hadley Freeman
Hadley is partly responsible for the name of our female special month. Two 4th Estate team members vetoed any use of the word ‘girl’ with Be Awesome as their key text. ‘Don’t, if you are over the age of eighteen, refer to yourself as a ‘girl’ or your friends, if they are over eighteen, as ‘the girls’. You are a woman and a lady and so are they. And you know what? That’s just brilliant.’ This is just one pearl from Be Awesome’s never-ending treasurechest of wisdom, inspiration, wit and warmth. I spent some very happy days last year, listening to the audio book of Be Awesome while I walked London. The only downside was how often I had to stop to rewind and / or text an extract to a friend. That and my unstoppable need to NOD ALONG…
By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
Based on the author’s affair with poet George Barker, By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept is like nothing else ever written. It is an outpouring of language, of a passion of tears of geraniums, fuchsias, bleeding-hearts, of Bing Crosby out of a jukebox, and the bar-tender clanking glasses, of angels with sadist eyes. And it is one woman’s consideration of what it is to be overcome by love for a man, and how one’s sense of self can survive that. ‘Certainly he killed me fourteen nights in succession’ she says of her lover, before going on: ‘To rise again from such slaughter Messiah must indeed become a woman.’
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
In this particular instance, a publisher can make statements that elsewhere might be accused of hyperbole. The Golden Notebook, Lessing’s account of English novelist, Anna Wulf, searching for her personal, political and professional identity, deserves the epithets ‘masterpiece’, ‘one of the greatest novel of the 20th century’, ‘life-changing’, ‘world-changing’. And just for back up – here are some more ‘extraordinary … a seminal work’ (Anita Brookner); ‘makes our age seem prim and puritanical and half-witted by comparison’ (Rachel Cusk); ‘has no equal’ (Guardian); ‘a novel of shocking power and blistering honesty’ (Margaret Drabble).
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
“I’m sick of the masquerade. I’m sick of pretending eternal youth. I’m sick of belying my own intelligence, my own will, my own sex. I’m sick of peering at the world through false eyelashes, so everything I see is mixed with a shadow of bought hairs … I’m sick of pretending that some fatuous male’s self-important pronouncements are the objects of my undivided attention, I’m sick of going to films and plays when someone else wants to, and sick of having no opinions of my own about either. I’m sick of being a transvestite. I refuse to be a female impersonator. I am a woman, not a castrate.”
If you are sick too, look no further – this feminist masterpiece is your medicine.
Words by Lettice Franklin
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