Pratchett’s Women: An interesting perspective on a fantasy legend

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPratchett's Women by Tansy Rayner RobertsPratchett’s Women by Tansy Rayner Roberts

I discovered something about myself by reading Pratchett’s Women, which is always a worthwhile thing. What I discovered was that, although I rejoice greatly at the presence of strong female characters in a book, I don’t necessarily notice their absence as much. Now that I’m aware, hopefully that won’t be true so much.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, herself an award-winning fantasy author, analyses most (but not all) of Terry Pratchett‘s books from a feminist perspective, and finds them… mixed. She praises the improvement from the early busty bimbos (who were, at least, people with lines and opinions and wants, if still stereotypes) to the later women like Cheery Littlebottom, Lady Sybil, Susan Death and, of course, the witches, while still criticising a few significant slips even in the later volumes of the series.

A notable omission for me was the Moist von Lipwig books, especially Making Money; I would have liked her perspective on Adorabelle Dearheart, a.k.a. Spike, or the elderly widow of the banking magnate, or the golem Gladys, who is female only because she decides she is. Moist is mentioned, so I know Roberts has read the books, but an analysis of them is missing.

What is here is an interesting perspective, always personal but with a wider resonance, on Pratchett’s treatment of female characters. The text shows strong signs of its blog-series origins, including the need for an editor; words like “to,” “the,” “more” and “is” don’t always make it from the author’s brain to her fingers, and she uses the word “conflagration” when I’m reasonably sure she means “conflation.” Pratchett’s Women is also fairly brief, but none the worse for that (although, as I say, I’d like to see her analysis of the Moist books).

I’d recommend this to anyone who’s interested in non-ranty feminist perspectives and fantasy fiction, and who’s already read the Pratchett books (since there are multiple spoilers).


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MIKE REEVES-MCMILLAN, one of our guest reviewers, has eight bookcases which are taller than he is in his basement, and 200 samples on his Kindle. He's trying to cut down. A lifelong lover of the written word, he's especially a fan of Jim Butcher, Lois McMaster Bujold, Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelazny. He reads a lot of indie fiction these days, and can report that the quality and originality are both improving rapidly. He himself writes the Gryphon Clerks fantasy series, and numerous short stories. Mike lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and also in his head, where the weather is more predictable and there are a lot more dragons. He rants about writing and genre at The Gryphon Clerks and about books he's read at The Review Curmudgeon.

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One comment

  1. Oh, interesting! Right now I’m reading Diane Pavlac Glyer’s book BANDERSNATCH, which, despite the Lewis Carroll title, is about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. When I’m done maybe I’ll grab a copy of this.

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