Book Review: Why She Wrote by Lauren Burke & Hannah K. Chapman, Illustrated by Kaley Bates

Book Review: Why She Wrote by Lauren Burke & Hannah K. Chapman, Illustrated by Kaley Bates

ARC received from publisher, Chronicle Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers by Lauren Burke, Hannah K. Chapman, Kaley Bales (Illustrator)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Non-fiction, women’s history, biography, graphic novel, classics

Publication date: 20th April 2021 by Chronicle Books

As I continue my endeavour to read more classics and heading into the new year with fresh reading resolutions, Why She Wrote couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. I wasn’t aware of this book until my co-blogger, Celeste, read and reviewed it most favourably. Furthermore, the first book we picked up in 2021 was Anne Bronte’s debut, Agnes Grey. Knowing that all the Bronte sisters were featured, I thought it would be interesting to read this title in tandem.

What a great decision that turned out to be. Why She Wrote is a charming and beautifully produced graphic novel that provided the most fascinating insights and stories behind some of history’s greatest women writers. Firstly, these writers were grouped into sets of threes representing the theme that underscored the reason they wrote. Each set starts with an overarching introduction of the three writers, followed by each writer’s biography told via a combination of a one-page narrative, comics, fun facts and bibliography. I’ve never read anything in this format before, but I’m definitely a fan because it was so delightful and highly engaging.

From the most renowned classic writers like the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott to the relatively lesser known ones (to me anyway) like Edith Maude Eaton, Alice Dunbar Nelson and Anne Lister, their stories made me better appreciate the works that I’ve read and more eager to get to the ones that I haven’t. Most notably, I think my experience of concurrently reading Agnes Grey was enhanced as I got to know the Bronte sisters more. The dynamics between Charlotte, Emily and Anne, as well as their individual differences were most intriguing; having read both Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey now, I can see how their personalities were represented in the stories they wrote. As for Louisa May Alcott, her story definitely made me look at Little Women in a different light, and also quite eager to reread it. Same goes for The Secret Garden and The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Books like this make me want to buy a few copies and gift them to friends, in the hope that it will spur them to read more from these writers, and/or be inspired by them.  As a celebration of women writers, Why She Wrote also provided great historical perspective on the challenges of being a woman in the past, which made their stories even more remarkable and inspiring. Recommended!

You can pre-order the book from Book Depository (Free Shipping) | Bookshop.Org (Support Independent BookstoresAmazon US | Amazon UK

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