Nicola Beauman – A very great profession

‘A very great profession’ gives an overview of novels written by women in the inter-war period. It is organized around eight themes, ranging from Romance to Psychoanalysis. Novels relevant to the theme of the chapter are discussed, quoted and put in the historical context. In this way, ‘A very great profession’ is not only an overview of the woman’s novel but also highlights how British society changed for women during that period. For me, a child of the 1980’s, this was very informative and eye-opening. This book was originally published by Virago, but reissued by Persephone Books  in 2008.

In this reading, especially the chapter on Feminism stood out for me. I feel that much of what is written there is still relevant today, (page 99)

‘By the 1920s, feminism for some middle-class women became more a question of personal integrity, of women fulfilling themselves for themselves.’

For me, this pretty much sums up the essence of feminism. There is another extract from the chapter on Domesticity that also really stood out for me, (page 141)

‘It is only when women are certain of an overall female audience that they are free to explore one of the most basic of female pre-occupations –  the reconciliation and connections of the everyday with the issues which society defines as broader and more important.’

I have written down a number of the novels that are discussed in ‘A very great profession’ that I would like to read at some point. I am very grateful that I discovered this book and have it on my shelf to read from and look up certain novels. I am sure that this will continue to be a valuable and much-loved resource on my reading path.

The list has turned out quite long! This will surely take me many years, which is quite an appealing prospect!


  • Virginia Woolf – Night and Day (1919)
  • Jan Struther – Mrs Minniver

Chapter One  – War

  • HG Wells  –  Mr Britling sees it through (1916)
  • Vera Brittain  – Testament of youth (1933)

Chapter Two – Surplus Women

  • Lettice Cooper – The new house
  • Winifred Holtby – South Riding

Chapter Three – Feminism

  • EM Forster – A room with a view
  • HG Wells – Ann Veronica
  • Vera Brittain –  Testament of friendship
  • Jo van Ammers – Kueller – De opstandigen (1925)
  • Storm Jameson – Three Kingdoms (1926)
  • Dorothy Canfield-Fisher – The home maker
  • Virginia Woolf –  A room of one’s own
  • Vita Sackville-West –  All passion spent (1931)

Chapter Four – Domesticity

  • EM Delafield – Diary of a provincial lady

Chapter Five – Sex

  • Nancy Mitford – The pursuit of love

Chapter Six – Psychoanalysis

  • Rosamond Lehmann – The weather in the streets (1931)
  • Rebecca West – The return of the soldier

Chapter Seven – Romance

  • George Eliot – Essays

Chapter Eight – Love

  • Kate O’Brien – Mary Lavelle


  • Dorothy Whipple – Greenbanks
  • Mollie Panter-Downes – One fine day
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2 Responses to Nicola Beauman – A very great profession

  1. Lyn says:

    AVGP is a wonderful book, isn’t it? I first read it many years ago & have gone back to it over the years as this is one of my favourite periods for fiction. You’ll find that Nicola has reprinted quite a few of the novels she discusses since she began Persephone Books. I’ve read most of the books in your list & they’re all wonderful. I envy you the opportunity of discovering them all for the first time. Testament of Youth, Return of the Soldier, Diary of a Provincial Lady & One Fine Day are some of my favourite books, I reread them often.

    • 88novels says:

      Thank you so much for your comment! I expect I will refer to AVGP very often. You have given me some good suggestions for where to start on my list, thanks!

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