Friday, June 29, 2012
Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
For a woman in the stifling and sexist 17th century England, Aphra Behn lived a colorful life: she traveled in the West Indies, married a Dutch merchant and was widowed soon after, worked as a spy in Antwerp for Charles II, spent time in debtor's prison and became the first English woman who wrote poetry, novels and plays for a living.
In her famous extended essay, A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf gives props to Behn saying, " All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds."
I loved this novella, but be warned; it is a tragedy amongst all tragedies. Surprising accessible - once you get used to the longer-than-normal paragraph length and randomly capitalized words within the sentence - the story moves at break neck speed. I was about one-third of the way through when, on a sleepless night, I got up at 4am to read thinking that it would make me sleepy. Fat chance - once I got back into the story, I couldn't put it down, nor could I stop thinking about the horrifically tragic ending.