Ask the Agony Aunts: Where are the Women Satirists?

22nd Oct 2012


Last time, our agony aunt duo gave us advice galore on how to get over Harry Potter. This time, though, they’re taking on another challenge: getting over the disappointment that was Lionel Shriver‘s The New Republic and finding other women satirists to sink our teeth into instead:

I recently read The New Republic by Lionel Shriver and, in between groaning and shaking my head, I realised I haven’t read any satire by women writers in ages. Has it always been such a boys’ club, or am I overlooking a load of great writers?

The Notorious BMD:

Add these to your to-read pile: The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, in which she takes on femininity, bodies, sexuality, the career ladder, our relationship with food, romantic love, consumerism, EVERYTHING!

All of Fay Weldon. Especially The Life and Loves of a She Devil. Then there’s Muriel Spark, who talks about religious faith and hypocrisy like no one else.

I know this is turning into Hot Topic by Le Tigre (a For Books’ Sake favourite, obvs) but bear with me. Let’s go back to the beginning with Jane Austen. No, let’s jump forward to Helen Fielding! Argh.

I’m running out of space, but: Ada Leverson wrote some of the most fantastic satire ever committed to print and was one of Oscar Wilde’s bezzies.

Also Doris Lessing, Stella Gibbons, Jan Struther, Jeanette Winterson, Sylvia Plath and Barbara Comyns. Phew! *Crashes face first into keyboard*


Look up ‘satire’ on Wikipedia and you might as well believe it to be a boys’ club, but there are some great women satirists out there.

Molly Keane, also known as MJ Farrell, wrote bitingly close satires of the upper classes and all their failings, and although her books are laugh out loud funny they are also a bit close to the bone in their subtle mockings of human behaviour.

Also, if you’ve never discovered Stella Gibbons, investigate her as soon as you can: Vintage re-issued many of her previous books a couple of years ago.

Westwood and Starlight are both brilliant satires of middle-class living, and artistic sensibilities (Westwood also contains a brilliant sketch of an arch-misogynist which should not be missed). And, if you haven’t read Cold Comfort Farm then darling, you are in for a treat.

Have you read any women satirists that need adding to our recommended reads? Or have you got a dilemma of your own for our agony aunts to solve? Tell us in the comments if so…

(Image via bibliothekarin)