Today's blog is about women in shared accommodation: flats (or apartments), student halls of residence (or dorms), hostels and clubs. The setups feature a lot in 20th century books - why is it so popular? And what happened to all the men? - we don't find them much....
The blog entry appears on the Guardian newspaper's books blog, here. These are the opening paragraphs:
‘It would be nice if we went around and talked like an Edna O’Brien novel. It would suit us.’
‘Yes it would become us’ I said. ‘We haven’t the class for Girls of Slender Means.’
Hilary Mantel knows exactly the tradition her 1995 novel An Experiment in Love is tapping into. Set in 1970, it is the perfect template of the women-living-together book: here are the shared clothes - a hideous-sounding but very fashionable fox-fur coat - the rivalries and jealousies, the secrets, the alliances. (And an uncredited cameo appearance by Margaret Thatcher).
Because after all, what do women do when they grow up? They move to the big city, where they share flats, rooming-houses, hostels or halls together, in twos and threes and fours. One of them is anxiously pursuing a career, but another just wants to get married. One will have an affair with someone who is married, and one will have an unwanted pregnancy....
Read on here.
Most of the books mentioned have featured on the blog, including Tales of the City, The Bell Jar, and The Country Girls. The Schiaparelli dress is here: