In honour of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, here are just a few of my favourite novels by and about women, all illuminating the lives of women in the past and today.
Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
A thrilling trapeze act of character, voice and magic.
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Unflinching. Utterly captivating. A writing masterclass in one small but enormous book.
The Passion, Jeanette Winterson
One of the great postmodern historical novels, The Passion is a lesson in using voice to connect past and present, and in combining heartbreak with restraint.
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
I’ve said this before, I know: this is virtuosic ventriloquism and storytelling, with a twist that will have you throwing the book across the room and then scrambling to pick it up again to find out what happens next.
The Colour Purple, Alice Walker
It never gets old. Never.
Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
Possession, A. S. Byatt
Another neo-Victorian ventriloquist’s performance, capturing all the melodrama of a Dickens novel.
Orlando, Virginia Woolf
I wish there was another word for seminal. How about: the book that gave birth to us all? (Here’s Tilda Swinton’s take on it.)
And some more recent titles:
Skin, Ilke Tampke
Beautifully written and reimagined world of early Britain during the confrontation with Rome.
Theodora, Stella Duffy
The appropriately riotous tale of the acrobat who became Empress of half the known world.
Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
It’s brutal and stunning and unforgettable.
Hild, Nicola Griffith
Another miraculous reimagining of Britain – this time in the early decades of the Christian missionaries and saints.
I could go on and on but I won’t. Feel free to add your own suggestions.