“Chick Noir”: Shopaholic Meets Double Indemnity

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In early 2014, several articles appeared proclaiming the rise to prominence of a new subgenre of the crime novel: “chick noir,” which included popular books like Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, and Before We Met. However, there was also resistance to the new genre label from critics who viewed it as belittling to women’s writing and to female-focused narratives. Indeed, the separation of female-centred books - whether “chick lit” or “chick noir” - from mainstream fiction remains highly problematic and reflects the persistence of a gendered literary hierarchy. However, as this paper suggests, the label “chick noir” also reflects the fact that in these novels the crime thriller has been revitalized through cross-pollination with the so-called chick lit novel. I contend that chick lit and chick noir are two narrative forms addressing many of the same concerns relating to the modern woman, offering two different responses: humour and horror. Comparing the features of chick noir to those of chick lit and noir crime fiction, I suggest that chick noir may be read as a manifestation of feminist anger and anxiety - responses to the contemporary pressure to be “wonder women.”

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