Book Meme: Mel’s Day Twenty-Six

Book Meme Challenge:

A Book That Changed Your Opinion About Something

I used to be one of those silly girls who found any book without female characters to be boring and unrelatable.  It took me several tries to start Lord of the Rings, just because I could not find any women in the first chapter.

So I tended to like the books that were written by women. I appreciated the sense of community and sisterhood that I received from Montgomery and some of Alcott and other female authors. But I was still thirsting for adventure, high romance, epic stakes, historical import.

I heard of the book that supposedly inspired the movie Braveheart that was written by a woman,

Scottish Chiefs

By Jane Porter

When I read it, I was expecting some of the grand drama and sweeping scope that was inherent in Braveheart. (What I had seen of the movie. I was not allowed to watch it all back then.) Or at least some level of adventure that marked Henty’s “Stories for Boys,” as they are actually called.

But no. Scottish Chiefs began with a lyrical garden scene, where William Wallace played a harp and sang  while lounging langorously with his wife. And the wife was a rather weak and weepy type of female, barely able to lift her head from her husband’s shoulder.

I was disgusted. I hoped that she died soon so that we could get to the good parts. That was first time I had thought of a woman as being in the way of the story.

After she was cruelly killed in her sweet and gentle garden, and Wallace had shed sufficient tears, we started to get into the political situation of Scotland. And then England. And then Europe. I was waiting for the battles.

Battles came. And went within one paragraph. And then suddenly there were pages and pages of after-battle negotiations, and speeches. I was aghast. Who in her right mind would skip over the strategies and heroics of an epic war and concentrate on the dull political manoeuvering?

 Moreover, the characters spewed saccharine platitudes. The women fainted right and left. The men turned pale and interesting. There was no mention of blood, or strength of arms.

My fury built as I read. By the time Wallace had been killed and Robert the Bruce established as a weepy turn-coat, I was seething. I closed the book, and hissed between my teeth, “Women should not write history novels! or adventures, or epics!

While I have toned down my extreme approach to sexism in literature, this was the boo that opened up my eyes to women characters and writer as hindrances to the story.

And when I went back to Middle Earth, I could appreciate the movement and adventure sans apparent female.  I also began to pick up even more Henty books as part of my exploration of history. And when the movie Master and Commander came out, I cheered that there were no silly girls to muck up the plot-line.

This book might not be very high on my recommendation list, it is the one that changed my opinion most drastically.


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