From debut novels to cult classics, here are five novels by pioneering female authors that tell different stories of womanhood


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Busy career women can always do with some down time

Busy career women can always do with some down time

 July 25, 2019

With hectic lives in and outside of work, busy career women can always do with some down time, and what better way to unwind than reading inspiring books by pioneering women authors?

Looking to switch off from work and dive into some engaging reading? Where Women Work suggests the stories of five memorable female characters who are all, in their own wildly different ways, trying to find their place in the world and what it means to be a woman. Enjoy!

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 

Queenie book

Queenie is Candice Carty-Williams's darkly comic and unflinchingly raw depiction of a young woman trying to navigate her way in the world.  

Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a Jamaican British family who don’t seem to listen, and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, 25 year old Queenie is struggling to cut a break. In her widely talked about debut novel, Carty-WIlliams deftly paints a picture of a young woman who is straddling two cultures and yearning for identity and independence. 

Queenie is both hilariously funny, dramatic and tender, and creates a heroine you will definitely want to root for.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits, a magic realism novel by Chilean author Isabel Allende, catapulted the author to literary fame. The novel spans four generations of women who are touched by magic and spirits, but who must fight to survive during turbulent, and fully human, events. 

Set against a backdrop of revolution, The House of the Spirits is inspired by Allende's personal experience of the famous military coup against President Salvador Allende. As a relative of the President, Allende had to bravely flee Venezuela for her own safety. And it is this same bravery that defines the women in her novel, who draw strength from nature and magic during times of patriarchal oppression. 

The House of Spirits is a true homage to the loud power and quiet lives of women and it is this, alongside Allende's enchanting storytelling, that firmly places this novel as a literary classic.

In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

In at the deep end

Kate Davies's novel In at the Deep End is loud, proud and totally outrageous. Described by the Guardian as "a Sapphic sexual Odyssey" and "a lesbian coming-of-age adventure", In at the Deep End follows the hapless love life of Julia as she navigates the ups and downs of her new-found sexuality. 

With flavours of Fleabag and Bridget Jones, In at the Deep End is uncompromisingly raw. It's certainly not for the faint hearted, but Davies's writing style, that swings between quick wit and moments of touching vulnerability, means that In at the Deep End never strays into the vapid territory of Fifty Shades of Gray. It's far too human for that, and far too real. 

A beautifully-rendered story of sexual awakening, In at the Deep End asks the question of whether we're really looking in the right place for love.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel that gives us a glimpse into Sylvia Plath's tragic life and her struggles with the pressures of womanhood.

Set in the oppressive heat of a New York summer, Plath's only novel addresses the question of socially acceptable identity through the eyes of intern Esther Greenwood. Esther yearns to forge her own identity beyond that of what others expect her to be - a housewife, trapped by domestic duties. Although at times comic, The Bell Jar is a vulnerable exposure of Plath's own self, particularly her struggles with mental illness and loss of identity, while also highlighting the problems with mid 20th century patriarchal America.  

By no means an easy read, The Bell Jar is one of those unmissable and transformative novels that will leave you reevaluating your own worldview. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Until her carefully timetabled life is shattered and Eleanor must, one brick at a time, dismantle the wall she's built around herself and face dark secrets she's avoided all her life. And as Eleanor navigates her new reality, she must learn that learning survive is not enough - you need to learn how to live.

Winner of the Costa First Novel Book Award, Gail Honeyman's pioneering novel about change is from the perspective of a woman who sees the world differently, but has the same dreams as everyone else.

 

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