The Women of Literature, parts 5-1

I wrote this list as a countdown, but in fact they are in no particular order. More clickbait to lure you in! Here are five more of my favourite femme fatales from fiction from the western canon


5.Kit Moresby (from The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles)

Debra, that is NOT a chair.

OK so this one is mainly on the strength of her portrayal on screen by Debra Winger, but I do feel like Kit Moresby is a particularly strong character. When her husband finally expires (spoilers) half way through the book she becomes the main character, and goes off to have a love affair with a Moroccan tribal elder, as you do. As a bisexual man back when that was still not the done thing, Paul Bowles had quite an original and personal perspective on marriage, betrayal and female desire.


4.Solitaire (from You Only Live Twice, by Ian Fleming)

Bond girls were always one of the main lures of that franchise. As a student I had a massive crush on Eva Green and her Parisian schtick, and I still feel like she was a good fit for Vesper Lynd, still the only woman who actually managed to put a ring on Mr Bond – but died straight afterwards because of course she did. However, with a bit more perspective, I now prefer Jane Seymour’s wide-eyed ingenue from Roger Moore’s first outing as Mr Bond – before it all became far too silly. Also, the Solitaire from the cover of the Penguin version of the book is smoking hot, and although that doesn’t say a whole lot about the content within, this list is about male wish fulfilment. So… screw it.



3.Juno (from Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake)

I have heard people bad-mouthing the third part in the Gormenghast trilogy as a lesser work, as (artist and author) Peake was apparently already ill when he wrote it, but that’s bollocks, because he lived another nine years after its publication in 1959. Gormenghast takes place in a fantasy world, but he must have been looking back on some real event when he wrote Juno, as I can never remember a more vivid depiction of a woman or one who I fell as instantly in love with in all of fiction. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Peake named her after a goddess, as she represents kindness and goodness as well as being sort of a Freudian mother figure (mentally I pictured her as an art teacher I once knew)… As the “older woman” to the young hero, she counterpoints the book’s theme of the ancient vs the new. Later on in the book Titus has a love affair with the daughter of an industrialist, but eventually leaves her as he decides she’s too cruel and self centred, reflecting how Peake may have felt about the modern world.


The Fountainhead cover (naughty 1970s version)

2.Dominique Francon (From The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand)

Dominique Francon is unique on this list because she represents a female wish fulfilment character instead of a male one. She’s a strong woman who gets what she wants, seducing the architect Howard Roark in an unfinished building in a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in a porn film. Despite that, feminist writers often criticise Ayn Rand because she is “the wrong kind of woman” (had right wing politics). As an immigrant from Soviet Russia to America, she hated socialism because she had seen it tear her country apart as a child at first hand. She died in 1982, but continues to win fans and trigger people in equal measure.


1. O. (from Story of O, by Pauline Réage)

Story of O. is written from the perspective of the title character and came out in the fifties, which seems to have been a great decade for fiction. It was written by Réage (her pen name) as letters to her lover, who was apparently a fan of De Sade, but it comes across as though she had a certain degree of experience and enthusiasm for what she was writing. O is a submissive who enjoys being bound up and used by a gang of aristocrats who keep her as their plaything for a while at their chateau. Because the French like that sort of thing. It was made into a film in 1975 and a TV series later, and it seems to have inspired the Luis Bunuel film Belle De Jour (1967) which also gave the world Catherine Deneuve! O. inspired countless role-play scenarios, and we could all take a lesson from her in learning to accept the things we cannot change – and maybe even coming to enjoy them.



Francis Fenn is a writer, game developer and degenerate. He lives in England.

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