My selection of fantastic lesbian literature.
Winterson is one of my all-time favorite novelists, and Written on the Body (published in 1992) is one of her best-loved books. It’s a larger-than-life love story, told by a narrator whose identity and gender remain unrevealed (although most readers assume it’s a woman, as is her lover).
It’s a story that might make you uncomfortable when you’re unhappy, you’re aware of why that is, and you’re struggling to pluck up the courage to change things. I know several people who have made drastic life changes after reading this. You are warned!
This early Donoghue novel (published in 1995) tells the story of Pen, whose lover Cara is killed in a car crash at the beginning of the book. We’re in Ireland in the 80’s and Penn, a teacher at a Catholic school, is very much in the closet. It’s heartbreaking to see how she has to cope with the loss of a longtime partner, when everyone around her is unaware of the nature of their relationship.
Donoghue reportedly said the novel didn’t sell well at first “because it’s about lesbians and death, two turn-offs for the average reader”, but make no mistake: there is actually a lot of laugh-out-loud deadpan humor here. Cathartic and funny.
Sarah Waters is an almost Dickensian storyteller, many of whose stories take place in a Victorian “gothic” setting. This historical mystery novel (with a delightful lesbian love story at the heart of it) is among her best. The plot is truly a marvel of intricate storytelling, and there’s a twist in it which had me pick up my jaw off the floor.
The BBC tv-series – with the amazing Sally Hawkins as Sue Trinder – is delightful and quite titillating (in a Victorian way :). If you don’t want to read the book, watch the DVD. Or even better: do both! Ideal for a long winter evening.