Happy as a Dead Cat by Jill Miller; Ambitious Women by Barbara Ellen Wilson; Killing Wonder by Dorothy Bryant - review by Jennifer Dworkin

Jennifer Dworkin

Feminist Fiction?

Happy as a Dead Cat


The Women's Press 150pp £2.50 order from our bookshop

Ambitious Women


The Women's Press 228pp £3.50 order from our bookshop

Killing Wonder


The Women's Press 178pp £2.95 order from our bookshop

Clive Sinclair, interviewing writer Emily Prager at the ICA, fell off his chair when she mentioned castration. How would he have copied with the heroine of Jill Miller’s comic novel Happy as a Dead Cat, who ‘dreamed [she’d] cut off twenty penises and fed them to a pack of wild dogs.’ Of course it is a truism that people expect this sort of thing from feminist fiction and Ms Miller is adept at playing with cliches. In fact the heroine’s castration dream dates from her pre-liberation days, when she is an exaggeratedly oppressed working-class woman married to a caricature chauvinist, who expects his meals on the table and his way in bed. No wonder she is portrayed on the front cover screaming through 180 degrees, objects crashing and spilling around her. Each day the disasters mount, until having jammed her foot in a full potty, crushed her fingers, fed dog food to the children and been punched by her husband, she is ripe to be rescued in the classic fairy-tale manner. And there is single parent Jane, ready to help – ‘I’m not more intelligent, love, I just have a bit more information…’

Jane’s brand of feminism is rather mild but it comes as news to the heroine. Watching the changes is very satisfying in a ‘before and after’ picture way. One moment she’s scared to go to the pub, the next she’s triumphantly starting a business with Jane and leaving her ghastly

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