I must confess to having rather neglected my blog during 2011, mainly through spending a great deal of time with a semi-naked Prussian. Although there has been a dearth of reviews here, I have popped up in a couple of other places. My piece on New Woman Fiction has just gone live on the Review 19 website and is their 200th review. The novels in this three-volume probe some of the key problems with which the women’s movement was grappling in the 1880s. Jessie Fothergill’s Kith and Kin highlights the resistance to the registration of female doctors; Mona Caird’s The Wing of Azrael examines the taboo of middle-class marital violence; and Vernon Lee’s Miss Brown foregrounds the difficulty faced by women seeking to enter politics.
I have probably already laboured the point in my review, but it’s a shame these books are so expensive – an eye-watering £275 for the set. They are priced well beyond the means of most scholars and, indeed, many libraries. This project (there are another 6 volumes) is an important contribution to the recovery of neglected writers, but it will introduce them to only a very small audience. Fortunately, Mona Caird’s The Wing of Azrael is available in an excellent and affordable edition from Valancourt Books. The other two are very difficult to obtain, although the redoubtable Girlebooks does offer a free ebook of Jessie Fothergill’s The First Violin. I became intimately acquainted with Fothergill when researching Notable Women Authors of the Day, and she is at times a brilliant writer.
Of course, publishing is not an easy industry: production costs are high and profit margins barely perceptible to the naked eye. Consequently, readers need to be prepared to pay more for a book than they would for an egg nog latte. However, I’m not sure books should cost as much as new PC. Anyway, blessed are the small publishers, so please support them in 2012.