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Lesley McDowell is an author and critic living in Scotland. She has earned a Ph.D for her work on James Joyce before turning to literary journalism. She has written for the Times Literary Supplement, Independent on Sunday, Sunday Herald and the Scotsman. Her first novel, The Picnic, was published in 2007 and she currently holds a Scottish Arts Council award for her second novel.

Between the Sheets

The Literary Liaisons of Nine 20th-Century Women Writers

Lesley McDowell

McDowell ... has culled incredibly juicy details. With so many affairs and broken hearts, the most surprising thing is that anything got written in the last 100 yearsNew York Times Book Review

It is laudatory that McDowell has set herself against the tenor of much of the critical discourse on the price of female talent overall this is a welcome addition to the lives of writers in love and lustNew Republic

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Why did a gifted writer like Sylvia Plath stumble into a marriage that drove her to suicide? Why did Hilda Doolittle want to marry Ezra Pound when she was attracted to women? Why did Simone De Beauvoir pimp for Jean-Paul Satre? The list of the damages done in each of these sexual relationships between female writers and their male literary partners is long, but each relationship provokes the same question: would these women have become the writers they became without the experience of their own particular literary relationship?

Focusing on the diaries, letters, and journals of each woman, Between the Sheets explores nine famous literary liaisons of the twentiety century. Lesley McDowell examines the extent to which each woman was prepared to put artistic ambition before personal happiness, and how dependent on their male writing partners these women felt themselves to be. She probles the consequences of the women's codependence and reveals how, in many instances, their partnerships liberated unspoken desires, encouraged artistic innovations, and even shored up literary reputations. Fascinating and absorbing, Between the Sheets is a marvelous read and an invaluable addition to the literature of feminism.