Gail Godwin 1937–
American novelist, short story writer, and essayist.
Godwin's main concern in her fiction is to create intelligent, thoughtful characters who try to rationalize the problems they encounter and who decide on the best ways to lead their lives. In her early novels, The Perfectionists (1970), Glass People (1972), The Odd Woman (1974), and Violet Clay (1978), Godwin's female protagonists often find their answers through artistic pursuits or by surrendering their independence to a man. Although some reviewers place Godwin within the feminist literary tradition, her themes are universal in scope, encompassing the relationship of art to life, the influence of the past on the present, and, most importantly, the struggle for freedom and self-fulfillment in a relationship with another person.
Godwin's novel A Mother and Two Daughters (1981) is a conscious broadening of her canvas. There are three central female characters instead of one, and her portrayals are more compassionate than in her previous novels. Critics have also noted that Godwin's male characters are more sympathetically drawn in A Mother and Two Daughters than in her other works. Some have found similarities with the Victorian novel, citing her large cast of characters and expansive format.
The stories in Mr. Bedford and the Muses (1983) are perhaps Godwin's most autobiographical works. They deal with the artist's relationship to her material and the conflict between wanting to gain experience in the world and having to adapt to a more dependent lifestyle. Critics have generally commended these genial, humorous stories.
(See also CLC, Vols. 5, 8, 22; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 6.)