In Dr. Hanson's work, each chapter clearly and effectively juxtaposes an English and an American Writer who utilizes similar themes and patterns in their stories and who as it were, generally lived and wrote during common or close decades within the century. In identifying common themes of women writers in the American South and the English North, she not only highlights finer terrains of culture and literature but also, paradoxically, bridges these two unique locales and brings them closer together. The Deep South, the Far North - south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the United States, or north of the River Trent in Great Britain, all is fair game to the metropolitan pundits to point to the distinction, and consider with little sympathy or understanding. Rarely do they allow the writers who live in or write about those outlandish regions to come with full justice into the center. Yet the true center is a region that the metropolitan crowd can hardly know with any exactitude.
A talented and interesting spoiler from the boondocks or outback rarely regards the center of artistic judgement to be some geographical point of reference in the capital city, but rather as a zone in the middle of themselves, a more vital place from where their work comes, and the only one which can matter. The best art only ever came out of a single creative source - if art it can still be called while its practitioners are still alive, and before history or forgetfulness has or had not carried all away. If such writers are anywhere at all at the present time it will be thanks to Gillian Hanson and her illuminating book, an informative co-ordination that points to the fact - a fair supposition - that writers out of the so-called center, but with the English language at their common disposal, are connected more to each other than to the respective centers in their own countries. I like that. Such an original concept has a ring of positive and encouraging truth. It must be inspiring too, to those writers who have had the privilege of being grouped in this way.
The critical faculties of the reviewers in England - and elsewhere, for all I know - are beamed onto those novels they purport most to understand, and though one can hardly blame them for that, there occasionally comes a feeling that their readers are not being realistically informed of what is being written. Complaints are invidious, of course, since good writing about people who don't normally appear in novels and stories will sooner or later find its rightful place. It often does, even so, but this excellent book by Gillian Hanson, meant for the general reader such as you or myself, and therefore enjoyable to read, will play a part in the necessary process. It can't do anything but good, both for those she writes about with such sympathy and perception, and for the reader who will without a doubt end the book by being better and more clearly informed.