In the 1980s, the historical novel, a centuries-old favourite among female readers, underwent a process of serious revision. The female heroes were brought up to date. The heroines were adapted to the contemporary world, and together with the new romance literature, the new feminist historical novel captured the interest of women readers.New women writers throughout the Nordic region began to write about hidden, forgotten, overlooked, or entirely unknown women from past centuries, and the books were welcomed by huge audiences (and by reviewers) with such overwhelming interest that it began to look like just the genre for which they had all been searching for so many years.
Much of the literature written by women after World War I bespoke a reaction to a new trend in sexual morality. The new age, the new woman, and the new sexuality echoed throughout its pages. With her “sex appeal” and “professional” relationship to traditional femininity, the new woman hovered around or simply crossed the line between the “good” and “bad” girl as defined by the old system of morality.Marika Stiernstedt’s prolific output reflects the temper of literature in Sweden in the first half of the twentieth century. She was a pacesetter in the 1920s. Her first twentieth-century novels examined infidelity and double standards in the spirit of Ellen Key. Relationships between women and men grew more complex in her later works.Her final work, Kring ett äktenskap (1953; About a Marriage), gives a no-holds-barred account of her infamous marriage to author Lubbe Nordström. The punctilious recital of the decline of an alcoholic and sexually ambivalent genius is unsparing in its directness. What good is freedom to the new woman if the new man turns out to be a cross between a hypocritical patriarch and a helpless child despite assurances of an egalitarian companionate marriage?
Many Norwegian women writers living under the mid-twentieth-century shadow of war ask this question: what is it like to live at a time when everything has been so drastically changed after a war?Some of these writers address the Second World War directly in their novels, while others work through the psychological crises that have followed in the wake of war. This is true of Solveig Christov, Aslaug Groven Michaelsen, Bergljot Hobæk Haff, and others.
The Norwegian author Ebba Haslund’s primary interest was the social situation and conditions of life for the middle-class woman in post-war Norway. She defended housewives, but at the same time she could see how increased prosperity and modern technology reduced the scope of their undertaking. She therefore not only defended the woman’s right to be a normal housewife but also her right to deviate from traditional gender patterns.She shows the reader the daily lives of her women. But by means of this everyday picture, she also reflects the conflicts and contradictions of a societal apparatus – many readers have thus found her books relevant. She not only made her voice heard via her pen; for many years she was an active chair for Den Norske Forfatterforening (the Norwegian Authors’ Union), and her morning causeries on Norwegian radio were very popular with the listeners.