Tired of formulaic romances?  Zoe Strimpel of the University of Sussex (photo) is  recommending works from three literary authors as alternatives, in her essay for The Conversation. Mind you, the three have written a lot more than romances. The Strimpel-blessed writers are:

George Gissing. Of The Odd Woman, Strimpel writes: “What it does so brilliantly is take one of the burning sets of issues of the day – women’s rights, particularly in relation to marriage – and pits its intellectual and ideological propositions against the anarchic, intrusive power of dawning love.”

Margaret Drabble, who, “80 years later, gives a softer but equally crystalline gender-aware portrait of relationships. In The Needle’s Eye (1972), reserved Simon Camish goes to a dreadful supper party and is offended by the guests’ vulgarity. But then rough-skinned, makeup-free, and self-dispossessed heiress Rose walks in, and with her genteel delicacy of manner and genuine modesty, immediately entrances Simon, himself married to a minor heiress he can’t stand.” Strimpel also likes The Millstone.

Iris Murdoch. She “isn’t for everyone. But I have loved her ever since a friend handed me The Black Prince (1973) on a rainy holiday in Sicily. Cowering on a deserted beach, I found myself intrigued and amused as ageing author Bradley becomes increasingly caught in a cat’s cradle of deadly desire, starring a striking assortment of women with men’s names such as Christian and Julian.” The Strimpel essay goes on to recommend other Murdoch titles.

My own thoughts on Gissing—beyond The Odd Woman: His New Grub Street is probably the classic, or close to it, on the perils of the writing life. See Chris Meadows’ recent post on the book. You can download free copies of Gissing’s major works from such sites as Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive and Feedbooks.

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