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Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  199 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
From a writer of astonishing versatility and erudition, the much-admired literary critic, novelist, short-story writer, and scholar (“Dazzling”—The Washington Post; “One of those rare writers who seems to be able to work on any register, any time, any atmosphere, and make it her own” —The Observer), a book that explores the little-known literary tradition of love between w ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by Knopf (first published 2010)
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Just A. Bean
Mar 22, 2012 Just A. Bean rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt, history
Should be subtitled Two Thousand Years of Femslash. That said, I appreciate that the book doesn't take the tone of OMG! They're so sleeping together! as retroactive lesbian lit theory. The author surveys close bonds and attractions between women, especially ones with sexual connotations (such as cross dressing or a woman rivalling a man for another woman's heart), but doesn't presume that the relationship is a sexual one, only the forms that are repeated and the ways they can be read (except in ...more
Akemi G
Nov 15, 2015 Akemi G rated it it was amazing
Brilliant review of woman-to-woman romantic love in Western literature, from the ancient Greek mythology to late 20th century. The most remarkable feature of this book is the way the author organized it by how such relationships are treated in the plot lines. She presents six patterns:

1. Travesties
A woman dresses as a man, inadvertently causing romantic feelings in a woman, which may be a problem for the crossdresser but amusing to the audience. (eg. Twelfth Night) OR a man poses as a woman (as
Jun 19, 2015 Arlian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally, I was going to give this book 5 stars. A few reviewers have said it's "too academic", but I am baffled by that. This is an incredibly easy to read book. While this book is basically a survery of literature, you don't have to have read any of the works that Donoghue references. I have actually read a number of the books cited, but I originally missed out on a lot of what Donoghue points out. She makes me want to reread some of these books for sure. All around, a stellar work. So why d ...more
I was hesitant about reading this book because my knowledge of English and French literary traditions is minimal (practically nonexistent to be honest, you say Restoration comedy and my brain spins about wildly before pulling up one or two vague facts) and this book focuses on works which most the most part, I've never heard of, but it was fantastic. Smart, clear, engaging, striking the right degree of detail, funny etc - everything that survey literature should be.
Eleanore M.
Dec 13, 2016 Eleanore M. rated it liked it
This is a very interesting read, academic but not dense, and almost obnoxiously well-researched - I came out of it with a reading list a mile long. I'm never going to get through all of these (and some of the older ones aren't even available; imagine my suffering).

However, have you ever read a book and hated it so much that it taints everything in contact with it? Donoghue apparently loves Sarah Waters, the author of Tipping the Velvet, and I hated Tipping the Velvet so very much for the bland
May 22, 2015 Catherine rated it liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
It's a Donoghue book, so saying that it's well-written is simply redundant. Where she lost me a bit, though, was in the examples that she chose. I found the "Monsters" chapter fairly weak, largely due to the exclusion of works with supernatural elements, which I thought would have given a much broader scope for her discussion. I was also somewhat baffled by the timelines and lack of historical reference points; reading fads change because external events influence them. So, all in all, not the b ...more
Jan 14, 2017 Summer rated it really liked it
A really good and insightful overview of the history and themes of stories about lesbians. I'll be looking up some of the stories that were mentioned.
Jenny McPhee
Oct 15, 2011 Jenny McPhee rated it it was amazing
Our Generalized Amnesia
With Lillian Hellman’s 1934 hit play The Children’s Hour opening (Feb 9) in London’s West End, the cyberpress is atwitter about catching some “on-stage Lesbian love” between the play’s two stars Kiera Knightly and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men’s Peggy). Interviewed in The Sunday Times, Moss says her character -- Martha Dobie, a New England schoolteacher accused of an affair with the headmistress (Kiera Knightly) -- isn’t exactly a lesbian and “the play isn’t about lesbianism eit
Jan 26, 2013 Jill rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
To be fair, this book should probably get four stars. It was rich in researched details and not too difficult for the lay reader. But 4 and 5 stars are, for me, reserved for books I am likely to want to read again. This was too academic for a second read... Unless I go back for my PhD in lesbian literature someday.

Some reviewers have said that it gave them ideas for what books to read next. For me, I'm content to leave the heavy lifting for Donaghue. She read them so I don't have to! If you are
Dec 31, 2016 Jay rated it liked it
2.5, really. It was okay. It's an interesting history with a lot of work behind it, but not nearly as good or fun a read as I'd hoped.

Clearly a great deal of research went into this, and it covered a lot of stories I had never even heard of, as well as a number of classics. So some parts were very interesting, especially whenever something positive cropped up in the deluge of death and suffering. It would have been nice for a little more insight into the cultures and events shaping the stories d
Bill Brydon
Nov 15, 2014 Bill Brydon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Thorough research and refreshing candor p. 14 "...time to let readers of all stripes hear about and enjoy the whole range of literature about desire between women, whether romantic or smutty, thrilling or funny, and with blood-fanged fiends included too."

"The vampire, too, has often been used as an allegory for the Other, especially a member of a distrusted, invisible minority such as Jews. Queers fit the vampire even better: a hidden identity revealed only by subtle signs, a nocturnal subcultur
Bernadette Robinson
I read a large paperback version of this that stated it was 288 pages or so long, but the last quarter of the book is full of the research info that the book has been based on.

This book has been well researched in my opinion and is one that I dipped in and out of whilst reading fiction. Hats off to Emma Donoghue, she has compiled a comprehensive list of books that if you're interested in the LGBT genre or are studying this for English Literature will be very useful.

The book is broken up into s
E. K.
Sep 22, 2010 E. K. rated it really liked it
Really interesting, this is a topic I didn't think had been much discussed in Western literature until the 20th century, but she really proved that wrong. My only gripe was that it seemed more like a personal reading list than anything else. I was disappointed that she didn't spend some time exploring different perspectives on these books and what other critics and historians thought of them. In the last chapter she mentioned that some critics think that stories of desire between women are reall ...more
Suzanne Singman
Jan 21, 2016 Suzanne Singman rated it liked it
It was hard to get into the book. There are a lot of references to very old literature (1700's and before) and she writes as if the reader had read these old stories, an invalid assumption in my case and i think of myself as being pretty well read. But then i got into it. This is an analysis of women's relationships to other women in literature. Not necessarily lesbians, though many times that is true. There were references to many newer books that I might want to read. I guess the best thing wa ...more
Mary Kathryn
Aug 06, 2010 Mary Kathryn rated it it was amazing
From ex-academic and novelist wunderkind Emma Donoghue comes this top-notch and thorough account of lesbianism in Western literature. Female bridegrooms, butches, femmes, rivals, monsters, vampires, coming-out stories, best "friends" - all the various guises lesbian love has taken are well researched here. She's particularly strong on the theme of detection, whether the detective is a lesbian sleuth or a plain old dyke who is the last to know her kind. Readers are in for delightful surprises, as ...more
Jan 02, 2011 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Donoghue takes us on a fascinating trip through the themes that have run in literature about women loving women. The way she didn't dither about the "lesbian" label and the "were-they-weren't-they" of retroactively applying contemporary identity politics, but rather just focused on presenting close female couplings (and, of course, how others reacted) was refreshing. This is the first nonfiction book in a while that I'll definitely purchase rather than simply borrowing from my library.
Simona Vesela
Nov 27, 2016 Simona Vesela rated it it was amazing
A neatly organised collection of works in various genres of (loosely named) lesbian fiction. I was surprised that many of these existed. I enjoyed the weaving composition of the book, when the author pointed out similarities to previously mentioned works of literature and tweaks the currently examined novel made. If I read more of the discussed works I could get a clearer understanding, but I still enjoyed it a lot.
Lisa Spangenberg
Jan 01, 2012 Lisa Spangenberg rated it really liked it
Shelves: gender, quiltbag, 2012
A fascinating categorized survey about the depiction of women loving women in literature, largely Western European from the Middle Ages through the Victorian.

The span necessitates brevity, but Donoghue is thorough and presents a number of perceptive and intriguing observations. There's food for thought here���and a great deal more discussion and analyses.
Feb 13, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it
This was a really informative read, and I learned a lot about the evolution of the representation of desire between women throughout the history of Western literature. A bit rushed in the end as far as the chapter covering the last couple decades, but overall a solid, informative, interesting scholarly overview.
Rachael Eyre
Aug 24, 2014 Rachael Eyre rated it really liked it
Absolutely loved this. I lapped it up over the course of the bank holiday, following various key threads in lesbian identified literature. Although it was fun running into old friends (the Sarah Waters canon, Fried Green Tomatoes), it also introduced fascinating books I can't wait to read. Proof that Emma Donoghue is a woman of many talents!
Sep 28, 2010 Brenda rated it really liked it
Donoghue is clearly knowledgeable and passionate about the relationships of women in great literature. I believe this book took ten years to write and it stands as a testimony to the strong role of women in books from earliest times.
Apr 07, 2011 Trent rated it really liked it
A fascinating tour of literature written about desire between women, from the medieval romance to the present day.
Jun 01, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it
Jan 03, 2011 Hazel rated it really liked it
I still think of this book and try to sum up the way emma donoghue was able to talk about the possibilities of intimacy between women and how that has morphed throughout time.

Dec 08, 2011 Caitlin rated it really liked it
I really liked this- it was a very fast read for nonfiction, and Emma Donoghue's voice is lively, friendly, and funny.
Wendy Lu
Jul 28, 2015 Wendy Lu rated it it was amazing
difficult to get through, but god, i'm into this book
Demi rated it it was amazing
Dec 31, 2011
Alya A.
Alya A. rated it it was amazing
Oct 14, 2012
Valerie rated it really liked it
Mar 03, 2016
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Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of ...more
More about Emma Donoghue...

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