A regular monthly feature by Elaine Henderson featuring noteworthy authors born in this month.
Who? Margaret [Munnerlyn] Mitchell, American author and journalist.
When? 8 November 1900
Where? Atlanta, Georgia
Why should I read her work? : Her epic American civil-war era novel, Gone with the Wind, is a seminal work on the period, influenced by first-hand family information and experiences.
Try: Gone with the Wind (1936)
Interesting fact: When Mitchell was incapacitated with an ankle injury her husband, tired of bringing armloads of books back from the library, urged her to write a book herself. The result, Gone with the Wind, is still in print, with over 30 million copies sold worldwide.
Who? George Eliot [Mary Ann Evans], English poet, journalist and translator
When? 22 November 1819
Where? Nuneaton, Warwickshire
Why should I read her work? Eliot was a leading Victorian intellectual and writer, notable for her use of realism and her keen psychological insight.
Try: Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1872), Daniel Deronda (1876).
Interesting fact: Like the Brontës, Eliot used a male pen name to make sure her work was taken seriously.
Who? Louisa May Alcott, American novelist, abolitionist and feminist
When? 29 November 1832
Where? Germantown, Pennsylvania
Why should I read her work? Although generally regarded as novels for older children, Alcott’s Little Women series is loved and appreciated by adults the world over; the books consistently appear in ‘best-loved’ lists and are still widely read and appreciated.
Try: Little Women (1868), Little Men (1871), Jo’s Boys (1886)
Interesting fact: Alcott’s family were ‘Station Masters’ on the ‘Underground Railroad’, a network of safe houses and secret routes helping fugitive slaves to escape.
Who? Robert Louis [Balfour] Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer
When? 13 November 1850
Why should I read his work? A celebrity in his own time, Stevenson was later dismissed as a second rate writer for children and of horror; now, however, he has been acknowledged as a writer of range and insight, the equal of Henry James and Joseph Conrad.
Try: Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886), Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), The Master of Ballantrae (1889)
Interesting fact: In 1890 Stevenson bought an estate in Samoa and took the native name Tusitala (Teller of Tales); he was much loved and respected by the Samoans who, when he died, wrote a ‘song of grief’ which is still sung today.
Who? C[live] S[taples] Lewis, Northern Irish novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian broadcaster and lecturer
When? 29 November 1898
Where? Belfast, Northern Ireland
Why should I read his work? Lewis’s work has imagination, depth, universal and enduring appeal; he speaks to the heart.
Try: The Allegory of Love (1936), The Problem of Pain (1940), The Screwtape Letters (1942), The Chronicles of Narnia (7 novels, 1950-1956), Surprised by Joy (1955)
Interesting fact: Now accepted as a Christian writer, Lewis was for many years an atheist and was only reluctantly brought into Christianity ‘kicking, struggling, resentful’.
Who? Eden Philpotts, Indian-born English author, poet and dramatist
When? 4 November 1862
Where? Mount Abu, British India
Why should I read his work? Chiefly known for his Dartmoor cycle of 18 novels, Philpotts’s observation and recording of 19th-century Dartmoor life, its people and the landscape are widely admired.
Try: Children of the Mist (1898 and 1923), Sons of the Morning (1900), Widecombe Fair (1913)
Interesting fact: Philpotts was educated in Plymouth and worked as an insurance officer for 10 years before turning to writing.