When it comes to Christmas presents ideas, a book
is always a good option, if you know what to buy.
Recently, an acquaintance looking for a gift for his wife asked me for advice
on "books for women", particularly classics like (and I quote)
"Tess of the d'Uberville and Jane Eyre".
Off the top of my head, I went through the usual list of Jane Austen
and the Bronte Sisters and made a couple of suggestions on Russian literature (“Dr
Zhivago”, “Anna Karenina”…), but was left a bit confused on what was meant,
"Classics for women"? Classics are
Wouldn't a man enjoy reading "Pride and Prejudice"? Can't more modern classics like Virginia Woolf and Hemingway be loved by both sexes?
Perhaps it could be said that women tend to enjoy
reading about people and relationships more than men, while men tend to enjoy
books that are more factual, but they are very broad generalizations.
Taste ultimately is individual. Women love a good
thriller; successful romantic books like
"Love Story" and "One Day" were written by men and enjoyed
by male and female readers alike. Terms like "women's fiction",
"chic-lit" and "lad-lit" often include very similar types
of books and genres are very blurred.
And yet, perceptions seem difficult to change.
As writers, we are told that putting our work in a
clear genre is essential to help publishers with marketing our book. I placed my
novel Playing On Cotton Clouds under the umbrella of "women's
fiction" (though I also used the more general "contemporary fiction" tag) a
term I’m not completely comfortable with. My book is for everyone, has both
male and female characters as protagonists and has been enjoyed by both sexes.
It has been compared to “One Day”, which, having been written by a man, was never
categorized as “women’s fiction” despite including very similar themes, so these kinds of distinctions seem a bit misleading.
Can we really think in terms of books "for
men" and "for women"?