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Fay Weldon: Women read books for comfort

28 May 2013 Last updated at 10:12 BST

The American author Claire Messud has prompted a debate about female characters in literature.

During an interview about her latest novel, she was asked a question in about one of the characters called Nora, and specifically whether she was likeable.

Messud was angered by the question, and argued that likeability was not an issue with famous literary male characters such as Oedipus, Humbert Humbert, Antigone and Hamlet.

Speaking to the Today programme, author Fay Weldon said: "When women read books, they read it for rather simple reasons - they like friends and they want friends and the book is a comfort."

Writer Sarah Dunant said: "When men have power, they can be unlikeable and we're willing to be in their presence, it's a bit dodgier when women are unlikeable."

First broadcast on the Today programme on Tuesday 28 May 2013.