Peters' groundbreaking study focuses on women as narrators in six British novels to show that the strategic use of women's narratives was intrinsic to the formation of the Western novel as a literary form and in fact has come to define what we now understand as "novelistic" even in non-canonical works.
The book makes an original contribution to the scholarship of the history of British fiction by breaking away from the widely held critical position that women's narratives were outside and against the history of the genre. In her analysis of dual-voiced works from the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries, Peters shows that women's metafictional discourse within the novel did not emerge as a late-twentieth-century reaction to the canon but has been present from the novel's beginnings. She also introduces a new level of academic discourse to feminist narratology as an approach to literary works by focusing attention on the dynamics of structure at the level of text, separate from the fiction. Peters' selection of novels by both male and female authors is a distinguishing feature of the book; the result is a rich and original description of how gender and genre interact in the discourse of these six familiar texts: Moll Flanders, Clarissa, Jane Eyre, Bleak House, Mrs. Dalloway, and The Rainbow.
By positing a new and earlier chronology for the discourse termed "postmodern," Peters has revised the history of the British novel.