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Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  384 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Jane Austen and the Brontës endure as British literature’s leading ladies (and for good reason)—but were these reclusive parsons’ daughters really the only writing women of their day? A feminist history of literary Britain, this witty, fascinating nonfiction debut explores the extraordinary lives and work of seven long-forgotten authoresses, and asks: Why did their conside ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Harper Perennial
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Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author of this book is a great lover of Jane Austen. However, one day she questioned what actually came between her beloved Jane and the Brontes. What female literary work existed in the 150 years between 1760 and 1910? In this book she has taken seven female authors who lived and wrote in that period and has looked at the issues they faced, their successes and their legacy.

The writers she features are Charlotte Turner smith (1749 – 1806), Helen Maria Williams (1759 – 1827), Mary Robinson (
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
The story of 7 female writers who were extremely popular from the Recency era through the Victorian era, but who have now been forgotten, are told about in Not Just Jane. These women were expected to fulfill their duty as wives and mothers, and not let anything get in the way of that worthy goal.

Unfortunately, all women do not meet and marry reliable, trustworthy men who can provide for them and their children. Usually, economic reasons forced these women to become writers to feed and house the
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kobo
Jane, Charlotte, Emily(and Anne) Bronte, George Eliot(Mary Ann Evans), and Virginia Woolf are all wonderfully talented writers and their often quite socially subversive work undoubtedly transformed the British literary tradition- that's not up for debate, and diminishing their gifts and achievements is not at all what this book is about....There had to be other British women writing and publishing alongside them and I decided to find out who they were, what they wrote about, and why their work ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall a fascinating read.

I came across this by chance and was immediately intrigued by the title... reading the summary cinched the deal and I ordered the book right away. Since I am a Mood reader (which sucks sometimes), I waited for the "opportune moment" (as Jack Sparrow would say) to crack it open.

Reading this book made me glad to discover these ladies that contributed so much and are sadly, not as well known as they should be. I had heard of some of these titles as it turns out, in p
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting and fun book. The writer chooses 7 authors that are less known than Jane Austen, The Brontes and George Eliot and dedicates about 40 pages to each, giving you enough information of their lives, how they came to write, and a general overview of what it was like to be a woman during the very late 18th century until the very early 20th. It starts with Charlotte Turner Smith ( 1749- 1808 ) and ends with Mary Elizabeth Braddon ( 1835-1915 ).

They were all interesting women and there are a
Amal Bedhyefi
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really don't know how to rate this book . I think that this book will only appeal to people who have a genuine interest in knowing some of the british female writers that wrote as good as Jane Austen but unfortunately aren't as well known .
I liked how she narrated each story and I've learned a lot from this book as i knew nothing about these authors before picking it up . In fact , i didn't even know they existed . I know right !! shame lol
HOWEVER , the only thing that didn't sit well with me
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not Just Jane is at its weakest when it tries to explain why these women are not remembered, but shines when the women themselves step to the forefront. DeWees ably highlights the gaps in our knowledge as she advocates for an expansion of the canon. more ...more
Kathleen Flynn
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful look at seven 18th- and 19th-century female writers who are now largely forgotten and unread. Their tales of how brilliance and hard work triumphed over a suffocatingly sexist society are inspiring in themselves but also provide valuable context for better-known writers of the era. And I have lots of new ideas about what to read! Thanks, Shelley DeWees.

I will agree with what some other reviewers said here and suggest skipping or at least skimming the introduction. It picks
Anna Kay
Sep 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I can hear your voices now, saying how can you three star it if it's a dnf for you Anna? Well I'll tell you in just a bit. Reasons for dnf/full review to come soon.

Full Review/Reasons I DNF'ed

So, really there is only one reason for this (at least that I can think of): I am not an academically minded person. And when I say that, I don't mean that I only enjoy fiction and never read non-fic -- that's a false statement. Or that I consider myself to be unintelligent -- that is another false stat
Some of it was interesting and I agree that taking a fresh look at these authors is a good thing. (It made me want to go back and reread some Mary Elizabeth Braddon, for instance.) However, any book which sets up a dichotomy between Romanticism vs. Realism and has Jane Austen on the Romantic side with the Brontes is just not going to fly with me, not to mention referring to Dickens as a "high-minded litterateur". ...more
Bryn (Plus Others)
I don't usually review books that I don't finish, because I don't feel like I know enough about them to make a judgement. This one, though, I am sending back to the library unread because DeWees, under the guise of 'rediscovering' female authors, has written a piece of nonsense that relies heavily upon sexist and classist myths about women and authorship while ignoring decades of actual scholarship by actual women.

The idea that there were female authors before Jane Austen is not a new one; Dale
The purpose of this book seems to be to make more British women writers of the mid-1700s to early 1900s more well-known. It’s true that if you are holder in a literature degree, you would have heard of a few of these writers (I heard of all seven, but that is in part because of John Sutherland’s Lives of the Novelists), but the average person less so. The most famous of the group is Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

The book is less history or literary analysis than more these women are kind of cool – out
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is women's month, and I thought it lucky to find this book at my library while I was reading Charlotte Smith's first published novel, Emmeline. The author gives us well researched portraits of seven women writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. "However limited their careers, however much they were impeded, these seven women embraced the reality of their time, and in doing so they transformed Britain's literary tradition." ...more
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, b-grade
Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature is a fascinating look at the works and lives of seven English authors: Charlotte Turner Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Catherine Crowe, Sara Coleridge, Dinah Mulock Craik, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. The book profiles how their careers were shaped by the society they lived in, and how their writing, in turn, shaped society.

Because the author, Shelley
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and readable literary biography about seven women who were best-selling authors in the 19th century but aren't well-known these days (except Mary Elizabeth Braddon, she's probably the best known of the set). Very fun to read and so interesting (frustrating?) in that history always, always repeats itself (omg, the ladeez they are writing THINGS and people are READING THEM because IMPROVED ACCESS and won't someone think of the children! - Victorians can hand-wring with the best of ...more
Karen Barber
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly researched look at lesser known female writers.
The writer's passion for her subject shines throughout, and this is a genuinely exciting read.
As an English graduate I'm embarrassed that women writers who were so popular in their respective times have not been heard of. It shows just how what we think of as the canon of English literature has been moulded by others' wishes/politics.
The information given about these women was interesting, and has certainly made me want to try and loca
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Fun to learn about 18th-19th century British writers. Got a bit tired of the author's recurring tirade about how terrible life was for women in the that time period. Although I wouldn't trade the freedoms I have now, for the limitations I would have living then, I do think it's a bit short sighted to conclude that every woman who lived during that time period was miserable. The author doesn't take in account selection bias. Meaning the women who wrote about how miserable they were and turned to ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
LOVED IT. <3 Full review to come!
Fascinating book about seven British authoresses during the 18th and 19th centuries who not only were vastly unconventional, but have also become forgotten. Each chapter focuses on one of the authoresses and is semi-biography and semi-literary criticism of their work. Although I've spent my life delving into 19th century British literature with obsessive levels; I'd only heard about one novel by the women presented in this book. I've added a few books on my to-read list after finishing this one. ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was wonderful in many ways. It was great to learn about female authors apart from the typical 19th century trifecta: The Brontes, Austen, and Eliot. Learning about womanhood during that time period enhanced the meaning of these books, too. My to-be-read list has been expanded! Can't wait to check out these new authors. As Shelley DeWees says, the only thing better than Brit lit is more Brit lit. ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Meh. Interesting bios but the fact that the author conflates Austen and Bronte makes me skeptical that she gets it right about these other women writers. 2 stars for effort.
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable, easily-readable series of biographies. DeWees' style is warm, witty, and refreshingly human, and the women she chooses to highlight are fascinating. The book doesn't pretend to be 'academic', but provides a really interesting insight into the lives of seven influential female writers of the British Romantic and Victorian periods. ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelley DeWees takes what is often regarded in English major circles as one of the most boring periods in literary history and spins something that is fun, highly readable, and packed with information. In the realm of technical versus entertaining (the vaunted Art vs. Pop Culture Trash debate), I think this book runs a fine line between both: there is enough information on Georgian and Victorian society to be illuminating, but the tone remains informal and humorous. I didn't fully understand DeW ...more
Chelsey Clark
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Probably more of a 3.5, but it ended on a high note for me so I'm rounding up!

Shelley DeWees and I share a deep appreciation for Jane Austen, and we both might have a habit of leaning a little bit too hard on this. (I think something like a quarter or a third of the books I read last year were Austen related!) It never hurts to diversify, so I'm glad I dug this book out of storage (unrelated: living in between two countries at the moment, what a faff).

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! Absolu
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-books
In the collected works of famous female authors of the late eighteenth through nineteenth century Britain, there are a handful of names that everyone recognizes; Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and George Eliot are the major ones. What happened to the other female writers who emerged during this time? That is what this book aims to explore by providing a biography of seven other women who wrote poetry, novels and plays at a time when women did not usually work. Describing their early life and t ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I tried to write this review twice, and each time the Goodreads app on my phone ate it. Not cool.
But at least the delay allowed me to gather my thoughts a bit better, so now I shall say this: I wanted to like this book more than I did. The premise is pretty great - I always love reading about women in history of whom I hadn't heard before, and finding out more about famous-in-their-time novelists is right up my alley. While I really enjoyed most of what I read, I found the author's style a littl
Ginger Price
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It straddles the space between an academic and non-academic text, but it's still very informative and, I think, entertaining. The historical context surrounding each author discussed is both clear and engaging, and DeWees' assertions are generally well-supported. Though she doesn't give a completely comprehensive account of any of the authors (but, really, how could she?), the information that she does give is compelling and insightful, and it supports her claims for ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I've learned about seven female writers, only one of which I had heard of before. They went through a hell of a lot to write their novels, essays and poems. Some of them had sad lives, some had scandalous lives but all went through the same thing together, trying to be valued as writers in a man's world. I love the past and enjoy reading history but I can't help feeling grateful that we women don't suffer the indignities or cruelties that women in those times ...more
This is a fantastic biography on seven British woman writers who have largely been forgotten by the public and academics. I learned so much about the lives and times of these seven women and their works. I am now on the hunt for each authoress's bibliographies and I am determined to read them.

To anyone who is interested in woman's literature and history, READ THIS BOOK!!!! It is fabulous! I learned so much, it is well written, it provides lots of context, and it celebrates fierce, strong-minded
Dec 11, 2016 rated it liked it
It was interesting that a main reason they were forgotten is because they went against society's pressures on how to live their lives and lived them to the best of their abilities within those constraints. ...more
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