No Surrender, By Constance Maud
No run-of-the-mill women here
Sunday 16 October 2011
The social-realist strain probably reached its apotheosis with the political novel, and there can be few more political novels than Maud's dialogue-driven 1911 tale of mill girl Jenny Clegg and middle-class Mary O'Neil, drawn together under the suffragette banner.
It's political in terms of setting out its demands for votes for women, but also in its portrayal of relations between men and women, husbands and wives.
Jenny helps her mother hide money from her father; her sister's brutal husband, Sam, has sent their two children to live in Australia without telling her. Mary's views are ridiculed by suitors. Maud is hardly subtle about women's powerlessness but she has a message to get across: that women, from whatever class, can find solidarity only among themselves. Even working-class men won't back women's fight for justice because they want their jobs.
Maud's didacticism may deter today's audiences, but there's no doubt that her portrayal of life for suffragettes in prison is a real tour de force. Her description of Mary's torture ("her whole being was drowned in an overwhelming sea of pain") as she is force-fed while on hunger strike is shocking, as is the cruelty of the wardens and the two doctors ("'Bad as killing a pig,' replied Dr Sawyer. 'Squealing and kicking up such a shindy – requires a dozen to hold her'."). What Maud wants to celebrate is women's strength and ability not just to endure but to change things. It's not an easy read but it is a worthwhile one.
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 2 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
- 4 Amy Winehouse unpublished 2004 interview: ‘Ten years from now I’ll be 30, so I’ll maybe have one baby’
- 5 Dutch paedophile club to fight their ban at the European Court of Human Rights
Immigration Street meeting sees local residents demand producers 'go away' and Channel 4 scrap planned series
Hercules, review: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson takes centre stage in preposterous film
Fight Club 2: Chuck Palahniuk sequel is a 'meta-fictional comment on the cultural response to the original'
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains