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May 13, 2003

"It is a truth universally acknowledged..."

that if you poll the Brits for the "50 best loved novels written by a woman, past or present, in English and published in the UK" they must surely believe that Pride and Prejudice leaves everything else in the dust. Poor Charlotte Bronte, whose Jane Eyre came in at number two. She must be really peeved.

I reproduce the list below, for when the link inevitably goes dead.

The Top 40 Books by Women

1. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
2. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
3. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
4. Middlemarch George Eliot
5. Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
6. Persuasion Jane Austen
7. Emma Jane Austen
8. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
9. Unless Carol Shields
10. To Kill a Mocking Bird Harper Lee
11. The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
12. White Teeth Zadie Smith
13. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone J K Rowling
14. Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell
15. To The Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire J K Rowling
17. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
{18. Silas Marner George Eliot
{ Possession A S Byatt
{20. The Mill on the Floss George Eliot
{ The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy
22. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf
{23. Bridget Jones' Diary Helen Fielding
{ Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen
25. The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood
26. Chocolat Joanne Harris
27. The Shipping News E Annie Proulx
28. Little Women Louisa M Alcott
29. The Sea, The Sea Iris Murdoch
30. Family Bites Lisa Williams (fan site
{31. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets J K Rowling
{ The Shell Seekers Rosamund Pilcher
{33. Orlando Virginia Woolf
{ The Thornbirds Colleeen McCullough
{ I Capture the Castle Dodie Smith
{36. The Girl with the Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier
{ Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys
{ Oranges are not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson
{ Fingersmith Sarah Waters
{40. Clan of the Cave Bear Jean Auel
{ The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath
42. The Secret History Donna Tartt
{43. Five Quarters of the Orange Joanne Harris
{ Beloved Toni Morrison
{ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban J K Rowling
46. Bel Canto Ann Patchett
47. The Bell Iris Murdoch
48. Regeneration Pat Barker
{49. The Bone People Kery Hulme
{ The Color Purple Alice Walker

Yours, &c., LC | 08:10 PM | Writing & Language | Comments (7)


i don't have much knowledge of english lit, and i've never read harry potter, but somehow it just seems like: "one of these things isn't like the other..."

Posted by: marco at May 14, 2003 07:52 AM

I'll put this on my list of "Why British people are inevitably proven to be more intelligent than their American counterparts."

I just have a suspicion that if Americans were similiarly polled, the number one novel would be the 1995 adaption of Pride and Prejudice.

Posted by: Camille at May 14, 2003 08:32 AM

I do like the Harry Potter books, but I'm sure I could think of novels that are more properly considered high literature. At least it's Jane Austen that tops the list and not Helen Fielding, much as I love Bridget Jones's Diary. But Bridget Jones wouldn't be around if it weren't for Elizabeth Bennett.

Posted by: Lady Crumpet at May 14, 2003 09:31 AM

I've only read five of these (and am in the process of reading a sixth). Sigh. I need to spend more time reading.

Posted by: mrw at May 14, 2003 10:35 AM

May I second Camille?

When I read this list in the paper, I was rather excited. My friend, of course, couldn't understand my joy: "Why do you care? It's not like you wrote P&P".

*longsuffering sigh*

Posted by: Cordelia at May 14, 2003 05:27 PM

I am having rather a hard time putting The Color Purple and Beloved in the same class as P&P, Persuasion, Emma, Jane Eyre or even Middlemarch and Wuthering Heights (both of which I loathed).

Ah well, to each her own!

Posted by: cyberlibrarian at May 16, 2003 10:04 PM

It's interesting to see what people consider their favorites. I'd reach for the diversion and romance of Jane myself, while others seek the serious drama of someone like Toni Morrison or Alice Walker.

It's a subjective list, but I'm happy to see that among the favorites were a good deal of literary works (which I distinguish from the other merely popular works on the list). To a loose degree, some of these works have the commonality of women treated as property and explore how their characters manage their lives in the reality of the times they lived in. Neither Beloved nor The Color Purple have the same concerns or sparkling bits of Austen or the gothic nature of Bronte. Certainly Morrison and Walker are challenging reads because of the nature and depiction of their works, but they give an equal literary voice to women characters, in these cases American slave women, whose inner lives and concerns have a place in literature, and apparently in people's hearts, as much as the daughters of country gentlemen.

Posted by: Lady Crumpet at May 19, 2003 12:23 PM