Episode 8

Greek tragedies, feminist gothic literature and the power of teaching with Phoebe Wynne

Phoebe Wynne worked as a teacher for eight years, teaching Classics in the UK and English Language and Literature in Paris. She left teaching to write and we’re delighted today to be talking about her first novel Madam, which has been described as gothic fiction with a feminist twist perfect for fans of Madeline Miller and Margaret Atwood. 

Our interview begins at 26 minutes. 

Mini book club: Expectation by Anna Hope

We found this a really fascinating book about friendship and relationships and what we hope our lives will be. It's one of those books where you'll bring very different feelings based on personal experiences. We're both interested to see how our feelings towards this change in five or more years. 

In this interview, we chat about:

  • The literary inspirations Phoebe drew on for Madam, especially Daphne Du Maurier and classic Greek Tragedies
  • Why Phoebe chose to set the novel in the early 1990s and the implications this had on the novel (we take a diversion here into third wave/fourth wave feminism here - we checked after recording and we’re in the ‘fourth wave’ of feminism currently)
  • A long and winding chat about the value of women, feminism and the patriarchy
  • Phoebe’s work as a teacher and her journey to publication
  • The Australian inspiration for Phoebe’s gothic writing style (and a diversion into Australian New Wave Cinema and My Brilliant Career)
  • The fragile nature of schooling and the influence of good teachers on your life
  • The study of Classics and why Phoebe wanted to make it a central part of Madam

Books and other things mentioned

  • Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth
  • Olive by Emma Gannon
  • Grown Ups by Marian Keyes
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  • My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
  • The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr
  • Thelma and Louise (movie)
  • Batman Returns (movie)
  • Alien (movie)
  • Silence of the Lambs (movie)
  • Women and Power by Mary Beard
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock By Joan Lindsay (and the  1975 film directed by Peter Weir)
  • The Gaps by Leanne Hall
  • My Brilliant Career by  Miles Franklin
  • Mad Women in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  • Asterix comics

Follow Phoebe on Instagram @phoebewynnewrites

Follow us on Instagram @betterwordspod

Madam will be available in the UK and Australia from May 13. 

Michelle and Caitlin received PR copies of Madam from Quercus UK. 

About the Podcast

Show artwork for Better Words
Better Words

About your hosts

Profile picture for Caitlin Toohey

Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and going to aerial classes.
Profile picture for Michelle Gately

Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I write words and tell stories for a living as a journalist and marketer. So it makes sense that in my spare time I'm devouring more words and talking about books, right? I've been podcasting since 2017 and now also work in radio. When I'm not thinking about words, I can be found cuddling my pug Percy and dreaming about moving back to England.