BOOK REVIEW: Aphra Behn: A Secret Life by Janet Todd

Aphra Behn: A Secret Life

Janet Todd

This book look at the astonishing life, work and history of Aphra Behn: 17th century dramatist, poet, novelist, political propagandist, bisexual writer, and spy.  Virginia Woolf  said of Behn ‘All women together ought to let flowers fall on the tomb of Aphra Behn…For it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”  Behn, a spy in the Netherlands and the Americas, was the first professional woman writer. The most prolific dramatist of her age, innovative novelist, translator, lyrical and erotic poet, she expresses a frank sexuality addressing courting and loving ladies, orgasm and bisexuality, whilst serving as political propagandist for the monarch.

This revised biography of the extraordinary, ground-breaking writer is set in conflict-ridden England, Europe, and in the mismanaged slave colonies, following the Puritan republic in 1660.  Behn is emblematic of the Restoration period, a time of masks and self-fashioning. Tod’s writing is as appealing as her research is remarkable and the books bounces along at a delightful pace while scrutinizing  serious issues in a time of extreme political, social and religious upheaval.

Janet Todd is a novelist and internationally renowned scholar, known for her non-fiction feminist works on women writers. She is an expert in her field and has published books on Mary Wollenstonecraft, Jane Austen and now this much anticipated paper back edition of her superb book on Aphra Behn.

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