Discussing his new novel, Serena, with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Ron Rash brings up an interesting point:
“It struck me as I got deeper in the book that there are very few women in American literature who have real power,” he says. “There are plenty of women who have power within a family, but women who have the real kind of power, to kill people, to control a 100 men, as in this case. That was intriguing to me; we don’t have that many views of that kind of women, particularly during the Depression.”
Serena is on my to-read pile, so I can’t speak to the specifics of Rash’s definition of a powerful woman. But if the standard is a woman who runs armies, cities, companies, he may have a point. There are plenty of novels about successful, empowered women (Sister Carrie is the first to pop into my head, for whatever reason), but not on Rash’s terms. Maybe it’s an improperly framed question—outside of spy novels, there isn’t too much fiction specifically about male leaders. (Excepting Sinclair Lewis; inside my brain this morning, World War II hasn’t yet begun.) But this can’t be entirely a dead zone—female power brokers in American fiction? Anybody?