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Roberts, Michèle

stories women house little

(British/French, 1949– )

Roberts's novels and stories are distinctive for the poetic sensuous quality of her writing, and for her feminist exploration of women's lives, particularly the mother-daughter relationship. Religion is also an important theme. She is always inventive with structure, using multiple narrative voices and telling stories within stories. Begin with In the Red Kitchen (1990), a powerful, immediate novel about four women in three different times, ancient Egypt, Victorian England, and present-day London, linked via a woman claiming to be a medium. In Daughters of the House (1992), which was Booker Prize-shortlisted, two cousins, Léonie and Thérèse, are together again in Léonie's house in France where Thérèse (now a nun) grew up. The house is alive with family memories and secrets and a scandal dating back to wartime Nazi occupation. The past is unravelled little by little, and along the way there are lovingly vivid descriptions of household objects, and particularly (as often in Roberts's work) of mouth-watering food. Flesh and Blood (1994) tells stories within stories, like a set of Russian dolls, as its narrator (on the run after murdering his mother) changes sex and identity and moves back through time. In Fair Exchange (1999) two women who are peripheral to the lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Wordsworth are centre stage, waiting together in an old French convent for their babies to be born. Roberts also writes poetry.

Angela Carter, Sara Maitland, Virginia Woolf. See SEXUAL POLITICS  JR

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