By Sarah Seltzer
Friday, July 2, 2010
Female writers from Isabel Allende to Laura Bush offer every type of book for every type of summer reading list. Meanwhile a man--Steig Larsson--has produced the most talked-about female character in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy.
(WOMENSENEWS)--Female authors this year have produced something for every type of summer reading, from light, fluffy and popular to feminist tracts and epic literary explorations.
Perhaps the most popular literary woman this summer is not a writer, however, but a character: Lisbeth Salander, the heroine of Swedish author Stieg Larsson's bestselling "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels, the third of which, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," was released this year. Larson died in 2004 but his successful trilogy has been published posthumously.
The 2005-released "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its first sequel currently both sit atop of the New York Times mass-market paperback and trade paperback bestseller lists, while "Hornet's Nest" rules the hardcover list. The release of the third novel and a new film adaptation of the first novel have kept the series in demand.
Salander--the beloved eccentric, counter-cultural figure who teams up with the series' protagonist to solve mysteries and enact revenge on violent men--is dividing opinion among book critics and feminist writers. They are torn over whether Salander is a feminist foot soldier or if the violence she endures, and her romantic interest in the novel's protagonist, reflects misogynist tendencies.
The debate rages on. "Feminist, or not?" asks a headline in The Guardian. "She [Lisbeth] has so much power" marvels Courtney Martin at Feministing.com. "I have a hard time reconciling his ostensibly feminist agenda with all the male fantasy coursing through the books," writes Entertainment Weekly's Missy Schwartz.
Several perennial female beach-read authors are back this summer. "Twilight" series author Stephenie Meyer has published a novella, "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner." It is told from the perspective of a confused young female vampire who feels no moral compunction about devouring humans.
Another author who tangles with the undead, Charlaine Harris, returned in May for her latest installment featuring Southern waitress heroine Sookie Stackhouse, who contends with various supernatural dynasties in "Dead in the Family." This successful series, which fuses elements of paranormal, chick-lit and mystery, has been the inspiration for HBO's smash series "True Blood."
Another installment in a popular series comes from Candace Bushnell, widely hailed for inventing chick-lit with her series of fictional essays, later anthologized, about the life of "Sex and the City" heroine Carrie Bradshaw. Of course, this series spawned the hit TV and film franchise. "The Carrie Diaries" is a new young adult novel from Bushnell, which takes place back when the stiletto-loving sex columnist was a high school girl.
Chilean-American novelist Isabel Allende has returned with "Island Beneath the Sea," a historical epic about slavery, revolt and escape set in Haiti and New Orleans in the early 19th century.
Another historical novel comes from Jane Smiley, "Private Life." It concerns the inner thoughts and dreams of a woman in the 1880s who leaves her small town for life with her scientist husband.
Anne Lamott's newest novel, "Imperfect Birds," describes one seemingly pulled-together family's struggle with substance abuse, while Anna Quindlen's latest fictional work, "Every Last One," also looks at family dynamics.
By Sarah Seltzer
By Caryl Rivers
By Sarah Seltzer