Hannie Richards by Hilary Bailey

Hannie Richards, subtitled The Intrepid Adventures of a Restless Wife, was published by Virago in 1985. I read this one just before Christmas but didn’t get around to blogging about it then.

Hannie Richards is a middle-class housewife and mother, married to a farmer and living in Devon but to earn extra money she leads a double life as an international smuggler. I think this book is very much a product of the 1980s and as such has really dated badly. It was a time of radical feminism as I recall, when some women took things just a wee bit too far and we got into all that female = good and male = bad nonsense. If you’re old enough you might remember those women who went around claiming that all men were rapists.

Basically this is a book which is supposedly set in a London club which only has women members, there’s nothing radical in that. Hannie tells stories of her derring-do to a group of other women so it’s like a book of short stories which return to the setting of the club at the end of each one.

For me it really didn’t work as it was just so daft but not in a good way. The blurb on the back compares the adventures to things written by John Buchan and Rider Haggard. Well I just wonder if the blurb writer had actually read anything by those two authors. I particularly disliked the brutal rape scene and couldn’t see any reason for including it in the book.

I usually really enjoy books which have been published by Virago but not this one.

Going off at a bit of a tangent: how do you feel about women losing their feminine designations? It seems to be politically incorrect to call a woman an actress or conductress or any other sort of ‘ess’ nowadays. I find that very strange, it’s as if to be called an ‘ess’ and therefore be female is derogatory.

I can’t see anything wrong with being described as female, but then I wouldn’t ever accept that it meant anything less or more than being masculine. The word that I always liked, and you never see it now is proprietrix, you used to see it painted above pub doors years ago if it was owned by a woman. Then of course there’s directress/directrice. Ah, for the good old days when women weren’t trying to be the same as men.