Getting sad or getting mad

Three new novels exploring women’s suffering
by
August 2022, no. 445

Getting sad or getting mad

Three new novels exploring women’s suffering
by
August 2022, no. 445

In a famous letter to her friend and fellow writer Lorna Sage, Angela Carter declared that no daughter of hers should ever pen a title like Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945): ‘BY GRAND CENTRAL STATION I TORE OFF HIS BALLS would be more like it, I should hope.’ The choice between getting sad or getting mad, the dilemma of how to represent the reality of female anguish without romanticising or pathologising it, is a recurring theme in twenty-first-century women’s writing: it forms the main subject of Leslie Jamison’s essay ‘Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain’ (2014); it is the premise behind the post-feminist revenge films Jennifer’s Body (2009) and Promising Young Woman (2020).

Blue HourBlue Hour by Sarah Schmidt

Hachette, $32.99 pb, 320 pp

Three new Australian novels offer different approaches to the spectacle of women’s suffering. Following on from her début, See What I Have Done (2017), a reimagining of the 1892 murders in the Borden household, Sarah Schmidt’s Blue Hour is an elegiac tale about mothers, daughters, and the traumas they endure. Set in twentieth-century Australia, the narrative jumps back and forth between the perspective of Kitty, a woman whose unplanned pregnancy in 1941 forces her into a marriage she regrets, and her daughter Eleanor, who is grappling with sorrows of her own while on a road trip thirty years later with her baby girl, Amy.

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