Thursday, 27 May 2010

Reading Women by Stefan Bollmann

Anyone who enjoyed the images of women with books posted by Persephone last week in honour of the publication Forbidden Fruit may also be delighted by this book which was bought on impulse a couple of years ago. It was useless to resist.

It has recently been repackaged and renamed Women Who Read Are Dangerous:

The foreword by Karen Joy Fowler begins "We women who read should take a moment, put down the book, this or any other, look around us. We are experiencing a rare period of triumph."

Fowler goes on to explain that the idea of reading silently, especially if you were a woman, was once seen as a threat. It was idle, it was secretive, independent and even unchaste. People worried about their daughters reading in the same way that modern day parents fret about hours spent on the games console.

 "She might while the book lasts, be a completely different person from the one we are seeing. She might be a man; this is all too likely. She might be a horse and at the very moment we look at her, she might despair, finding herself sold at auction, sent to the glue factory. She might be a rabbit. She might be a hobbit."

Several images follow, some spread across two pages of, yes, women reading. There are images from the Middle Ages:

Photographs: (this one is of Alice Liddell, namesake of Alice in Wonderland.)

We are shown women who are young...

...and those older:

Women indulge themselves in books leisurely and with lazy pleasure...

... but some have to sneak a few moments from a working day:

Illustrations also appear:

Paintings by Van Gogh,  Hugo Van Der Goes and the wonderful Carl Larsson are included as well as photographs of Lee Miller (she's reading the paper whilst having breakfast in bed!) and Marilyn Monroe.

This volume can be read as a book or dipped into whenever the mood dictates. Buy it, buy it, buy it.


  1. Looks like a lovely book, I want it! ;) I really have to remind myself that reading and reading women have been viewed and still sometimes are viewed as dangerous. It´s easy to forget with everyone reading page-turners on the commute.

  2. Hi Bina,

    I know what you mean. I had very little idea how offensive the idea of a woman reading used to be. I'm so glad I was born in the twentieth century!

  3. First of all, I LOVE the cover and title of "Women who read are dangerous". Second of all, absolutely stunning art work. I once saw an exhibit at the National Art Gallery with a similar theme. It's amazing how many paintings of women reading have produced over the centuries. Love it!

  4. Hi Lydia, it is lovely looking isn't it? The first edition was sitting face out on a shelf in the book shop and I pretty much grabbed it and took it straight to the counter.

    The main text and foreword are great too...