Being a writer of novels is considered a calling and lifelong commitment, not something people try once and never do again, like babysitting or working in a call centre. While some one-novel writers left this world under tragic circumstances others just dropped the mike and walked off the public stage, dedicating their lives to other endeavours.
Here are five amazing female writers who gave just one book to the world and then disappeared.
Written between 1871 and 1877, Black Beauty continues to deliver on its author’s original intention “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses” in her readers. I defy anyone to read Black Beauty’s story and resist falling at the feet of the next horse you see to beg for forgiveness. Sewell was unable to walk for most of her life and died of tuberculosis just one year after Black Beauty was published, aged 58.
After leaving her job as a newspaper reporter Margaret Mitchell began writing the epic civil war drama Gone with the Wind in the early 1930s. The book was published in 1936 and became an instant bestseller, helped in no part by the beguiling character of Scarlett O’Hara, the southern belle with more jewels than Elizabeth Taylor and more sass than Ru Paul. Mitchell disliked the fame she received because of the success of the novel and never wrote another book.
Oh, Sylvia. If you had known how your one and only novel, The Bell Jar, would touch and comfort generations of young women, would your own story have turned out differently? The Bell Jar was originally published under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas and is a semi-autobiographical account of Plath’s experiences of mental illness. Just one month after The Bell Jar’s UK publication, Plath committed suicide.
Cathy and Heathcliffe, the most star-crossed of lovers since Romeo and Juliet, are at the heart of Wuthering Heights, a tale of love, revenge and madness set on the Yorkshire Moors. Published in 1947 under the gender neutral pseudonym of Ellis Bell, Wuthering Heights was considered scandalous on release. Sadly, Emily Bronte never lived to complete another novel and died of tuberculosis just one year after Wuthering Heights was published.
Although Arundhati Roy has far from disappeared (she is a prominent writer and political activist) thirteen years have passed since she released her superb and Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things. The irrational sense of entitlement that comes with being a passionate fan has forced me to add Roy to this list. If enough people suggest Roy has ‘disappeared’ then she’ll have to write another novel just to prove us all wrong, won’t she?