I read Bridget Jones’s Diary back when it came out, curious about the hype. I hated it. Over the years as a reviewer I’ve been hit by the odd low-flying chick-lit title, and as a reader I’ve read a lot of book covers. Aside from romance, this is the genre targeted most at women. It tends to include romance anyway. Unfortunately the women in Chick Lit novels (based on the blurbs, and Ms Jones) are alien creatures I can make no sense of.
Not so long back, I had the good fortune to read Sheena Cundy’s The Magic and the Madness. It revolves around a small, witchy family. Modern Pagan witches that any modern Pagan woman could recognise. If you aren’t one of the characters, the odds are you’ve met her at a moot. Real life issues, magical issues, matters of life and death – and yes, a bit of romance. Lots of comedy, and lots of values and ways of seeing the world and being in it that I recognised and responded to. I enjoyed it a lot, and found it affirming.
I’ve never been a chick. Never aspired to be one. Why would I read books that I assume I’m someone I am not? I have an on-off relationship with Women’s Literature as well – all too often these are books in which very little happens and everyone thinks about it a lot (that’s a working definition of literature). I want books where a fair bit of interesting and surprising stuff does happen, and people do reflect on it and it has real consequences for them. I want books where women are main characters, and where their lives do not revolve entirely around their love affairs with men. I want to read about women who are complex people with an array of things going on.
Sheena generously waved her book at me because she’d read Intelligent Designing for Amateurs, and based on what I’d written, thought I’d like her book. She was absolutely right. Stories about women doing things, more and less realistic, are very much my cup of tea. Throw in some magic, some comedy, a broad emotional pallet, and I’m in. And yes, the blurb focuses on the sexy vicar, but I’m glad to say the world of this novel doesn’t revolve around him. It’s heart is the relationships between the central women.
What I need, is Witch Lit. Stories about earthy, passionate, grounded women living real lives and doing outrageous, wild and wonderful things. Women whose lives do not revolve wholly around the presence or absence of men. Women whose conversations with other women do not revolve exclusively around the discussion of their sex lives, and the presence or absence of men. I’m starting to realise why, for most of my adult life, I’ve been so drawn to Lesbian Fiction – it’s one of the few genres where you can be reasonably confident of finding women who are not all about the men. However, not being a lesbian myself, I’d really welcome more stories of bi and straight women doing things as well. I like men, and I’m not averse to romance in a story, but I don’t enjoy samey books, and I don’t like the priorities of many of the female characters in rather too many books.
I am prepared to bet it’s not just me. Less Bridget Jones, more Minerva. Less Chick Lit, more Witch Lit.