Women’s Novels

“Sometimes men put women in men’s novels but they leave out some of the parts: the heads, for instance, or the hands. Women’s novels leave out parts of the men as well. Sometimes it’s the stretch between the belly button and the knees, sometimes it’s the sense of humor. It’s hard to have a sense of humor in a cloak, in a high wind, on a moor.”

“I like to read novels in which the heroine has a costume rustling discreetly over her breasts, or discreet breasts rustling under her costume; in any case there must be a costume, some breasts, some rustling, and, over all, discretion.”


“Last time we looked, monosyllables were male, still dominant but sinking fast, wrapped in the octopod arms of labial polysyllables, whispering to them with arachnoid grace: darling, darling.”

“She had the startled eyes of a wild bird. Ah, but which one? A screech owl, perhaps, or a cuckoo? It does make a difference. We do not need more literalists of the imagination. They cannot read a body like a gazelle’s without thinking of intestinal parasites, zoos, and smells.”

“Some people think a woman’s novel is anything without politics in it… anything about relationships… anything with a lot of operations in it… anything that doesn’t give you a broad panoramic view of our exciting times. Me, well, I just want something you can leave on the coffee table and not be too worried if the kids get into it.”

Margaret Atwood, Good Bones and Simple Murders

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6 thoughts on “Women’s Novels”

  1. Hmmm…why? I’m unsure what the post is showing me. What the purpose is. I’m not saying there isn’t one, but humor the man who focuses on a woman’s breasts (and I do talk about her hands as well! They can do amazing and artful things.) when writing. I actually got yelled at once by a friend, “Any novel that talks about boobs in the first paragraph instantly loses me.” She kept reading, but only because she’s a close friend. So please tutor me on how to write women. 😉

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    1. I think her point is, the boobs should be there, but discreetly. She goes onto say, “a glimpse of pink through the gloom, the sound of breathing, satin slithering to the floor, revealing what? Never mind.” HINT at the goods, but don’t go all porno on us.

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