A Birthday Book of Underappreciated Lady Authors

A few years ago, when I noticed that the centenary of one of my very favourite underappreciated lady authors was approaching, I hit upon the idea of throwing a party on that day. I did, and it worked beautifully. There were invitations, lots of guests took the trouble to find a book and post about it on the day, and I wrote a thank you letter to them all afterwards.

I always intended to celebrate more birthdays of favourite authors in the same way, but it never quite happened.

I couldn’t find the dates of birth of come of the authors I wanted. That ruled out Barbara Comyns, March Cost and Frances Vernon.

I found that the dates I could find didn’t spread out nicely over the year. February and December were terrible congested! Margery Sharp and Virginia Woolf shared a birthday!

And there was a certain amount of work involved. It wasn’t that didn’t love doing it – I did – but I was aware that it was absorbing time that I could have spent reading, and I was a little worried that I might be pushing others to read my particular favourites a little too much.

The idea drifted, but it never quite went away …

I decided that I would try to put together a birthday book to celebrate a number of my favourite authors over the course of the year. I looked at the authors whose books I had and really wanted to read or re-read, I did some searching; and I had to make some hard decisions, and accept that I couldn’t include every author deserving of a place, but I got there in the end.

* * * * * * *

A Birthday Book of Underappreciated Lady Authors

2018-01-03

25th January – Margery Sharp

17th February – Dorothy Canfield Fisher

26th February – Dorothy Whipple

21st March – E H Young

23rd April – Margaret Kennedy

10th May – Monica Dickens

9th June – E M Delafield

17th June – G B Stern

3rd July – Elizabeth Taylor

23rd July – Elspeth Huxley

31st August – Elizabeth Von Arnim

17th September – Mary Stewart

18th October – Helen Ashton

10th November – Patricia Wentworth

10th December – Rumer Godden

21st December – Rebecca West

* * * * * * *

I know that some of my authors are less underappreciated than others, but all of them are authors who have written books that I love; and I want to read more of their work and I know that there are more people who would love them too, if only they knew that their books were out there.

I think that they all have books in print, and I’m sure used copies of  titles by each and every author out there at reasonable prices.

It would be lovely to have company if you’ve spotted an author you love too, or an author you’ve heard good things about and wanted to read.

Just know that this is going to be quiet. I’ll just put a note in the sidebar to say whose day is next and post on that day.

And that there will be other posts about these authors and their books throughout the year, because putting this thing together has had me thinking of so many books that I really don’t want to wait to read …

70 thoughts on “A Birthday Book of Underappreciated Lady Authors

  1. I am as well! I was just thinking of Margery Sharp this morning, and trying to remember when her birthday is – and thinking of books to read & re-read.

    It’s lovely to see Dorothy Canfield Fisher & Patricia Wentworth as well.

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  2. Many fine authors here, but the one I feel most affection for is Rumer Godden. I first read her children’s book An Episode of Sparrows and went on to read almost every book she ever wrote, and her biography. But there’s nothing about her on my blog because I read the books so long ago. I’m looking forward to her birthday in December:)

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    1. I loved Rumer Godden’s books as a child, but I completely forgot that she wrote for adults until I saw her name in the credits of the Powell and Pressburger film of ‘Black Narcissus’ a few years ago. I’m working my way through her books and I suspect I won’t be able to wait until December to read another.

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  3. What a wonderful idea! I love celebrating authors birthdays, but I like your angle of those that are underappreciated. Today is Professor Tolkien’s birthday, but he has plenty of love. I really like Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Some of these authors, I know nothing about, so very excited to follow along and meet them. Amy

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    1. There must be something in the stars for this date, because two underappreciated lady authors share Professor Tolkien’s birthday. I would have loved to have Pamela Frankau or Henry Handel Richardson on this list, but I wasn’t organised in time. Maybe if I do this again next year …

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  4. Interesting you were able to pull so many birthdays together. I have no idea of the availability of these authors here in Tassie. I will have to look, mostly out of curiosity but you never know if I find something and jump in. I have the Century of Books challenge but wanted to use my TBR books for that but know it won’t always be possible. I look forward to future developments of your project.

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  5. Oh, well, I love almost all of these! But I can’t commit to any challenges with the TBR as it is, and a BIG FAT book I have promised to read with my husband, so I’ll see what’s coming up and contribute if I can, when I can. Enjoy!

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  6. Love the idea of a Birthday Book of Unappreciated Lady Authors – and most of your authors would be on my list (they’re certainly on my shelves), so I’ll join you if I may, But I may ignore one or two… And bang the drum for one or two others… Nina Bawden for starters…

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    1. You’re very welcome to drop in for as few or as many authors as you like. I hoped that somebody might think of other authors they would like to celebrate – Nina Bawden’s adult novels have never clicked with me but I know that many rate her highly.

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  7. Lovely list! I would of course be inclined to add Elizabeth Goudge (April 24)…especially since I decided not to do her “day” on my blog this year.

    Still grateful that you introduced me to Margery Sharp. I need to pick which book of hers to read this year.

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    1. I did think of Elizabeth Goodge, but her birthday was too close to Margaret Kennedy’s and I couldn’t leave her out. There were other authors I would have loved to include but many birthdays were clustered together, and so I may have to do this again next year with some changes to the list.

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  8. Great idea, and thank you for supplying so many of the dates already. I will try to join in, but I have a number of projects going at the moment, so I will probably pick and choose those that most appeal to me.
    Thanks for keeping the torch burning.
    Caroline (Bookword)

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    1. It seemed sensible to map out the whole year to get the balance right and so that there isn’t too much to distract me from the serious business of reading along the way. There’s no obligation at all, I’m quite happy with the idea of people dropping in and out and reading the authors they particularly love and the books already on their shelves.

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    1. That would be wonderful. All of the authors’ books are accessible – most of them were published by Virago or Persephone – so I hope this might introduce you to some new favourites as well as picking up books you already have.

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  9. Is there any room for a poet? Amy Levy: 10 November, Frances Cornford: 30 March, Charlotte Mew: 15 November; Elizabeth Jennings: 18 July; Louise Bogan, 11 August; UA Fanthorpe, 22 July; and there are many others.

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  10. What a marvellous idea Jane. It must have taken ages to put it all together – especially that gorgeous montage of portraits. I hope to be able to join you along the way – it is such fun to discover new authors like this. And by the way, I adore your new header picture – Crowe’s picture of Jenny Armstrong is so evocative. I am planning on buying Taubman’s book of Crowe’s work when I next deserve a treat! 😉

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  11. What a lovely idea! I was delighted to discover that I share a birthday with one of my favourites, and there are a few other names I shall be looking out for.

    If you have any room in January, it is Stella Gibbons’ birthday tomorrow (5th Jan 1902)

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  12. Jane, which Margery Sharp would you most recommend? I went on my library website this evening totally prepared for them not to have any of her titles and they had four. I think I could squeeze one in for her birthday celebration.

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    1. It’s difficult to pick just one, but the late books – after the mid sixties – are not so strong. I can recommend ‘The Eye of Love’, ‘The Nutmeg Tree’, ‘The Flowering Thorn’ and ‘Four Gardens’ as good places to met Margery for the first time, if your library has any of them … ?

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  13. What a lovely idea! I think I have books on my shelves that I’m eagerly waiting to read by all but 2 of these authors, so I shall try to manage to join in somewhere along the way.

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  14. This is super, Jane! I missed this post when it was published and now I will add Mary Stewart to my year as I read The Crystal cave last year so will continue with the Hollow Hills. I am reading my first Margery Sharp for this month (The Foolish Gentlewoman), and now I have a context for GB Stern whose book, The Matriarch, I bought recently as my first Virago.

    Thank you for organizing this calendar.

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  15. What a brilliant idea. I’m also joining in late, and especially looking forward to finding those few I don’t know. What a great excuse to re-visit my favourite 2nd hand bookshops.

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  16. I have just seen this – what a wonderful idea, I shall be posting about one of these authors all year long 🙂 but I look forward to joining in with some of the other writers too.

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