If you Google ‘bitches in literature,’ and I did, the same names come up again and again: Mrs Danvers, Daisy Buchanan, Becky Sharpe, Scarlet O’Hara, Veruca Salt, Estelle Havisham, The Wife of Bath even the insipid Amy March which brings me to the definition of a bitch. When I was at boarding school, every so often we were taken to the local cinema to see a movie and one of the movies we saw was ‘Gone With the Wind’. Even though it was over forty years since its original release, the movie still packed a powerful punch and I feel sorry to this day for the poor people who’d come along for a nice night out and found themselves in a cinema full of schoolgirls who sobbed hysterically for the entire second half. (Yes, it was that long ago that there was still an intermission.) Back then I was terribly impressed by Scarlett O’Hara but I never thought of her as a bitch as such. Yes, she could be quite sharp, yes she wanted her own way, yes she did what she had to do to get what she wanted but so what? No one calls Rhett Butler a bitch but the man was a bootlegger for god’s sake, he made all of his money trading off the misery of others, even if he did save Melanie Wilkes.
As for the likes of Mrs Danvers, well, is it not possible that the she was suffering from a lifetime of unrequited love? That the pain of losing the one, true, love of her life drove her to be so unspeakably mean to the second Mrs DeWinters? That she wasn’t being a bitch, she was just heartbroken? We all express grief in our own way after all, although her method is not one I’d recommend. Is it not also possible that Rebecca, the first Mrs De Winters was the real bitch of the piece? She is also described in various articles as a psychopath. Does a character have to be a manipulative liar with no sense of remorse to be called a bitch? Another class bitch was Jane, the bitter and twisted alcoholic sister in Henry Farrell’s novel, ’Whatever happened to Baby Jane?’ but Jane was a child star with Daddy issues whose own sister lied about her car crash to save herself from jail and by doing so landed poor Jane with a lifetime of guilt. Is it any wonder she behaved so badly? I think I’d be inclined to hit the bottle and turn nasty if my sister did that to me. One of the earliest bitches, The Wife of Bath, could also be described as a medieval feminist. So she’d had a husband or two, so she liked to drink and indulge in banter with the men, but she also wanted women to have equality in marriage, to not be thought of as part of their husband’s goods and chattels and as for the beautiful Estelle, well, her biggest crime was breaking young Pip’s heart Well big deal, hold the front page, man gets heart broken by pretty girl, she must be a bitch. He wasn’t the first, or the last, and to be honest I always thought Pip was a bit of drip.
Re-reading this I can’t help thinking that if any of the above had been men, then maybe history would not have judged them so harshly, if at all, and if that makes me a bitch, then so be it. I’ll take that.
The Bitches of Suburbia
Nothing much ever happened on Horseshoe Lane – why should it? It was, after all, just a normal suburban backwater with the usual cross section of growing families, ageing pensioners, the occasional singleton and a brace of curtain twitchers. The arrival of celebrity couple, Heavenly and Travis, however, changes all that. This glamorous pair bring about a summer of competitive party throwing and ambitious home improvement projects that will have disastrous and completely unforeseen consequences.
Neighbours who’ve got by for years with just the occasional chat over a garden fence about the unseasonable amount of rain or the state of next door’s garden are slowly united by suspicion as a husband goes missing, a much loved cat turns up dead on a doorstep and Enid from Number Seven is found badly injured at the foot of the cliff.
Could one person be responsible for all of this? Could that person be the strange and unlikeable Hilary Jones from Number Nine? There was only going to be one way to find out and it was going to involve a lot of whiskey….
In this her wonderful follow up to ‘The Rock Star Known as Horse’, Owen’s riveting new story finds a murky side to the suburbs, a side where petty jealousies and neighbourly rivalries can escalate out of all control with calamitous results, all intricately observed with her usual dark humour firmly to the fore.
Purchase on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2xV5TDV
About Jane Owen
Jane’s first novel, Camden Girls, was published by Penguin twenty years ago and quickly became an international cult bestseller published in many languages including Japanese, Spanish,German, Hebrew, Italian and Dutch. She’d already spent many years working in the film business working alongside stars such as Christophe Lambert, Andi McDowell, Daryl Hannah and James Remar before switching to the music business and working for bands such as The Who, Robert Plant, ZZTop and many more. Eventually, even that got boring and that’s when she wrote Camden Girls.
After publication, life became interrupted by an unfortunate traffic accident and Jane moved out of London to Sussex and slowly returned to writing. Her novels don’t fit into any specific category and, frustrated by endless rejections along the lines of ‘You write beautifully but we don’t know how to sell this book’ she started self publishing. Rave reviews gave her the confidence to keep going and believe in what she was writing.
She’s still in Sussex, sharing her life with her musician partner, three horses and a dog and divides her day between writing and riding.
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