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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 800 Years of Women's Letters - a welcome anthology, 22 Nov. 2009
By 
Lucy Viggers (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 800 Years of Women's Letters (Biography, Letters and Diaries) (Paperback)
'800 years of Women's letters' by Olga Kenyon is a truly fascinating and comprehensive study of women's letters reveals the nature of women's lives from the twelfth to the twentieth century. Entertaining and informative the book covers a geographic span from France to America and down to Mary Kingsley travelling in the Congo. There are many letters written here in Britain, from Jane Austen et al to contemporary writers Fay Weldon and Elaine Feinstein, including also the first female letter known from Roman Britain celebrating women's friendship.

Olga Kenyon's intention is to show that women's letters are a valid form of literature, despite still being relatively neglected, compared to poetry and novels, and she achieves this admirably. Taking account of the feminist approach, studying the older letters for their difference from the present also helps toward our understanding both of the past and of gender formation.

The book is divided into eleven main sections; each section includes an insightful introduction by Olga Kenyon. The letters cover such topics as: How women view their roles, Love and Sexual Passion, Work, War and Alleviating suffering and Political skills.

There are for instance letters from Aphra Benn, (the first professional woman writer in England) forced to ask for money to cover her expenses; Mrs Gaskell considers the balance between housekeeping duties and individual development; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu writes of on her first visit to a Turkish Bath in 1717 (she is perhaps the most interesting letter writer in the English language, though no books of hers were in print when this book was published in 1992). Many letters from less well known women are included such as Isabella Bird whose letters home give an informative view of life for new settlers in the American West of 1873.

These letters reveal honesty, accurate analysis, compassion, humility and love; they give us a new type of history. No previous anthology has presented such rich material of equal interest to historians and the general reader alike.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing Anthology, 17 July 2009
By 
Miss S. Bonnick "alternatives4women" (Cornwall, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 800 Years of Women's Letters (Biography, Letters and Diaries) (Paperback)
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In this engrossing anthology, the first truly comprehensive study of women's letters, Olga kenyon explores the tradition of female letter-writing from the 12th century to the presetn day.

One of the few 'allowable' forms of written expressioin open to women until the 18th century.

these private letters deal in daily life, their sorrows and joys, small achievments and the great rites of passage of birth, death and marriage.

Includes: Heloise, Margaret Paston, Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Florence Nightingale, Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen and many many more...

A Must for any collection!

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and engrossing guide to the lives of women, 19 July 2010
By 
MBJM (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
This is a wonderful book. Arranged according to subject areas (such as Friendship, Marriage and Childbirth, Travellers and Travelling, and Political Skills) it contains a fascinating and insightful guide to the lives of women from the thirteenth century to the present day. It covers a wide variety of lifestyles from the rich and famous to the nun and factory worker, and relationships, with women writing to family members, lovers, husbands, friends and notable figures in society. Many of the letters come from abroad (USA, Spain, France, Nigeria) and so also allow the reader to compare lives geographically. The best thing, however, is that it shows women reflecting and commenting upon their own lives, often in candid and surprising ways. Olga Kenyon provides a lucid and intelligent commentary which serves to highlight the social and political importance of the material, whilst refraining from interfering with the voices contained within it. Highly recommended for the scholar or interested leisure reader alike.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quiet and private voices, 4 Nov. 2009
By 
Rosalind Baker "Ros Baker" (Bristol UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 800 Years of Women's Letters (Biography, Letters and Diaries) (Paperback)
I bought this book ( in fact I bought 5 altogether) as a present / presents for women who I love and respect. They have all been thrilled by the quality and range of the extracts chosen. I myself, think the forward is superbly written and wonderfully thought provoking.
A great book to own or to give to anyone who enjoys being inspired by the reflections of people from other ages .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 9 Mar. 2010
This book is so inspiring, it takes you into the private worlds of women. It is well put together and the letters are carefully chosen. It makes a great read and an even better gift ready for International Women's Day. Whether you are an expert in women's studies or new to the topic this book makes a wonderful read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars letters to inspire writing, 5 May 2013
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I bought this book to uses in my work as a creative writer. It gave me lots of ideas to use in classes but was also an interesting read in its own right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, 27 Dec. 2009
My mum bought this for me in the early '90s and I still dip into it - it's comforting to think fellow women have felt like me back through the ages!
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800 Years of Women's Letters (Biography, Letters and Diaries)
800 Years of Women's Letters (Biography, Letters and Diaries) by P. D. James (Paperback - 10 Jan. 1998)
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