Since the emergence of fiction and other genres, many female writers have either created genres that had never
been seen before or adapted them to what they are today. PDBY looks at these females authors who deserve our
recognition and the modern novels that correlate to them most spectacularly.
The first historical novel
France’s first historical novel, written by Marie- Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, La Princesse de Clèves, was published in 1678 and became so popular that people outside of Paris had to wait months to get their hands on a copy. Set during the 16th century, a young wife suppresses her passion for a young nobleman outside of her social rank. A few modern historical novels that echo a similar tune as that of Marie Madeleine’s novel are: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones; The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers; and Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck.
The “first” speculative fiction novel
Many literary scholars argue that Margaret Cavendish wrote the first science-fiction novel called The Blazing World, published in 1666, about 150 years before that of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. However, her work falls more into the speculative fiction sphere, where the novel is set further away from the real world, with supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements. Novels like that of Cavendish’s are Sea of Tranquillity by Emily St. John Mandel, The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope, and Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin.
The first science fiction novel
Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelly, and published in 1818, tells the story of a man who plays God and makes a monster from different corpses’ body parts. In the end, all are made to face the sins of an unholy creation. Literary scholars believe this was the first esci-fi novel to be written. Another writer’s work that particularly stands out in modern science fiction is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness, The Dispossessed and The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.
Overseeing the well-being of the Gothic genre
Gothic terror writer, Ann Radcliff, cemented the rules of gothic writing, which raised the feeling of terror rather than horror. Her recipe is the ultimate nutrition for this genre for modern writers to establish themselves as prolific writers. Radcliff, being a caregiver to this genre after the prestigious The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, made sure to nurse it into the muscle of a category that Walpole never had the chance to do so. Among her gothic romance novels, her best-known work, The Mystery of Udolpho, published in 1794, created the platform for her to be recognised as one of the period’s most lucrative female writers. Novels that step into the mould of Ann Radcliff’s prestige are: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier; and Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield.
Ghost stories grow up so fast
Elizabeth Gaskell’s short stories gave us some characters that we know and love: devil, banshee, cursed nun and the
poltergeist. Gaskell’s efforts established them and their place within the ghost story genre. In Priorto Gaskell’s short stories, ghosts were meant to aid the living, and served as metaphors for what was bothering the living. In those times, it was a common tradition to tell of ghosts and things that go bump in the night under mistletoes and next to fireplaces, A Christmas Carol is an excellent example of this tradition. It is common sense to think that these stories were not too spooky. However, Gaskell changed the genre to what we know it to be today. Her stories, back then, broke out of its confines to tell stories of how vanquishing evil is not as easy as using a bit of burnt sage, but rather, the characters are taken deeper into themselves by forces they only know to exist within a nightmare. Some novels that could raise the hairs on one’s body like that of Gaskell’s include: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill; Beloved by Toni Morrison; and The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs.