What Would Virginia Woolf Do?
You Are Reading

Five Classics Retold From the Female POV

1
Books & Media

Five Classics Retold From the Female POV

Artist: Luciano Garbati “Mythology in Reverse” – Medusa holding Perseus’ head

In honor of Women’s History Month (although, in our view, every month is women’s history month), we collected some of our favorite books retelling the conventional story (read: male) through the female POV. “Minor” characters? Think again.

Topping the list is Marion Zimmer’s Bradley’s epic The Mists of Avalon, a feminist retelling of the ultimate old boys’ club King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable from the perspective of the bewitchy Morgane Le Fay.

Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea gives voice to the first “mad” wife of Jane Eyre‘s Mr. Rochester. (We agree with Lauren Groff, who, in her recently published short story collection, Florida, casts Mr. Rochester as a villain: “He’s a sociopath who keeps his grieving wife locked in the attic and tries to gaslight poor, plain, abused Jane Eyre then marry her bigamously.”  Amen.)

Herman Melville devoted but one brief passage to Captain Ahab’s wife in Moby Dick; Naslund spun it into a lush novel of historical fiction and romance, set in early 19th century America. Against this backdrop, peopled with real-life luminaries such as Margaret Fuller and Maria Mitchell, Ahab and his whale recede into the distance.


In The Aeneid, Virgil continues the tale of Aeneas as he battles gods and men to found the Roman Empire, finally securing his power by marrying Lavinia, the daughter of a king, and nothing more than a silent prize to be claimed. The inimitable Ursula K. LeGuin turns this narrative on its head, opening up Lavinia’s world as told through her eyes.

What was really happening in Ithaca while Odysseus was away? In Margaret Atwood’s sly take on The Odyssey, she retells the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of Penelope and her 12 hanged maids. And for a different kind of retelling, read Emily Wilson’s version  she’s the first woman to translate The Odyssey into English.

What's on your list?

Have you read any of the books we mentioned? What did you think of them? Have any great reads to recommend? Let us know in the comments below or post your recommendations to your social channels using the tag #woolferreads. 

Leave a Comment
WWVWD Newsletter Team

About the Author

Stephanie Staal and Nina Collins have worked together and adored each other since 1994 when they were both babies in the world of book publishing. Stephanie is a lawyer, journalist, & author of READING WOMEN, and Nina is the founder of "What Would Virginia Woolf Do?"