I wanted to write something for International Women's Day but time ran away from me a bit (I hate when it does that) and although I had an idea, there were more pressing real life things to be getting on with. So instead, I'm writing this now and will make it more of an International Women's Weekend rather than just one measly day.
I originally had thought that I'd write about my top 5 favourite books written by women but I immediately discarded the idea because that just seems a bit weirdly specific to me. I never choose books based on the gender of the author. I love books of all varieties, genres, storylines, styles etc and for me I never think "I really should buy more books by women, to be a better feminist" or whatever. However, after I'd decided against that idea, I then saw a tweet from radio DJ Rick O Shea explaining that although he's a big reader, he's only read three books by women this year and was looking for recommendations- one per person of a brilliant book written by a woman. Again, I found myself a bit perplexed by this, but then I remembered that books written by women tend to be heavily marketed at women, which both explains why fewer men read books by female authors and why I probably gravitate towards them unknowingly. The fact that I read an equal amount of books written by male authors is down to either the fact that male authors are promoted more in general than female authors are or purely because with the volume of books that I read, it's unsurprising that there's going to be a good mix of both genders when it comes to the writers. But I digress. I decided because of that tweet that I'd go ahead and write the post, so here we are. Instead of Mr O Shea's paltry one recommendation, I'm giving you ten. I haven't read all of their collective works but what I have read I have loved.
I read The Handmaid's Tale for the first time last year and I quickly became deeply immersed in the storyline and the plight of the main character, who finds herself in a dystopian future where women have become slaves to the patriarchy, for their own "protection" from infertility and sexual assault. What is particularly disturbing about this book was how plausible it was. I was reminded several times of battles that women in different parts of the world currently face and felt nauseated at the thoughts of how a fictional story could so easily become reality if certain situations don't approve. A brilliant, wonderfully written book.
I love How To Be A Woman. It's like a witty, accessible guide to feminism and any time I'm asked for a beginners guide to feminism I would usually suggest this. I wish I'd had Caitlin Moran when I was a teenager, instead I had Germaine Greer and The Female Eunuch, which obviously wasn't bad either but I think How to be a Woman would have been a more enjoyable read for 17 year old me.
I also read The Bell Jar when I was a youngster and it really resonated with me. I may not have had the same issues as Esther but her angst comes off the pages in waves so you can't help but empathise. I also love Plath's poetry, which is well worth a read.
Good God, We Need To Talk About Kevin is just an astounding novel. When I read it it actually felt like a slap in the face; I was shocked, disturbed and enthralled all at the same time. Since I finished it, I've been pushing it on other people as I feel like everyone should read this. So very good.
An oldy but a good'un. I really didn't think I'd love Frankenstein as much as I did but it was a surprisingly modern tale in a way and I can see why the story has remained such a constant in our popular culture since.
Speaking of old..I couldn't not mention Charlotte, who wrote one of my all time favourite books, Jane Eyre. The language in this is so beautiful and I love the character of Jane who displays all the characteristics of a feminist, something that was very out of place with the Victorian society that Bronte lived in at the time. That aside, it's a complex multi-layered love story and if you haven't read it yet I would urge you to do so now.
I loved The Little Friend, an absolutely epic novel about a child who tries to put the pieces together of the mystery surrounding her brother's death, except unfortunately, she's using her own hazy child-memories to do so, which leads to all sorts of troubles. This is a dark, gripping, masterfully written novel and I've already lined up two more from Tartt to read next; The Goldfinch and The Secret History.
Waters is fond of writing historical fiction, often set in either Victorian times or the 1940's. All of her books contain lesbian love stories (bar her most recent), which in itself is refreshingly different from the "heterosexual norm" found in the majority of books written by successful female authors. My absolute favourite book of hers is The Night Watch, which looks at four characters in 1940's London. The story is perfectly written so that the connections between these people are gradually revealed with a constant attached sense of loss and sadness. Beautiful.
I personally think Keyes is completely underrated. She's constantly marketed as "chicklit" and while there's nothing wrong with that (bar the cringe-worthy name itself), when I read her books I feel like she's been gypped a bit. She deals with a wide range of topics; mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and divorce, so not strictly within the realm of so called "wimmens problems". She's also a comedic genius and I often find myself loudly chuckling with one of her books in front of me.
Another Irish author, French has written four books, all focusing on the fictional 'Dublin murder squad'. Each book has a brand new storyline and main character (although they sometimes appear in the other books as minor characters) and apart from being well paced and well written with an intriguing murder mystery, there's always something a bit sorrowful underneath the surface. The best way I can describe her books is that they're written respectfully. I enjoy a good murder mystery/thriller but gave up on the likes of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell years ago because they were just too graphic and used the rape, torture and murder of women almost in a titillating manner which bothered me. You won't get that with French and clearly others agree with me as all of her books have been bestsellers, with a fifth being released this year. I can't wait! Note, my favourite of hers is Faithful Place and you don't need to read them in order.
I'm also really enjoying JoJo Moyes, Elizabeth Haynes and J K Rowling at the moment and I suppose a shout out should go to Hilary Mantel who has won the Booker prize twice, even though I personally hated Wolf Hall.
Let me know in the comments if any of these brilliant women also rock your world, in the literary sense obviously! If not, who's your favourite female author and why?