So you like Margaret Atwood?offers tips for ten other books with interesting female characters at their core
Last Ones Left Alive
Davis-Goff has been a tireless promoter of innovative Irish writing as one half of indie publisher Tramp Press, along with Lisa Coen. In her debut novel, she inventively mines the ever-rich seam of the zombie thriller, giving it a feminist twist. Set in a post-apocalyptic Ireland, Last Ones Left Alive introduces readers to compelling teenage heroine Orpen, a young woman brought up on a remote island off the West coast by her mothers Muireann and Maeve. Her warrior training is challenged to its utmost when she comes up against the terrifying and zombie-like skrakes and is forced to leave the island.
Hailed as a classic of speculative fiction after its release in 2016, Alderman’s electrifying (literally) novel was inspired by a mentorship award in which the author was paired with Atwood. In The Power, adolescent girls mysteriously develop the ability to electrocute people at will. Around the world, women seize control, and wreak revenge on their male oppressors. The book’s themes have only grown in resonance since its release and a ten-part television is in the works from Amazon, with the director of The Handmaid’s Tale TV adaptation on board.
God only knows what Strout’s (anti) heroine, the contrary and cantankerous Olive Kitteridge would do given the power bestowed to those in Alderman’s book. The eponymous central character of Strout’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel returns in Olive, Again. Strout’s genius lies in her acute portrayal of the ordinary lives of extraordinary characters and in this novel, she exceeds the masterful achievement of Olive Kitteridge, once again giving voice and an unforgettable shape to an older woman, a character largely ignored not just in books, but by society.
Girl, Woman, Other
Evaristo shared the Booker Prize podium with Atwood last year, and while many believe the decision to have joint winners took away from Evaristo’s achievement as the first black woman to receive the accolade, the controversy will at least have introduced a whole new audience to her work. The Booker bounce resulted in the book more than doubling its previous sales in the week following its win. Girl, Woman, Other is the eighth novel by the British writer and is a vivid and technically accomplished exploration of the intersecting lives of a disparate group of black women. Evaristo explores contemporary issues of feminism, sexuality and identity while also examining the impact of Britain’s colonial past.
“What happened to the women we were supposed to become?” asks the tagline on this book, which looks at the sacrifices women must make in order to have it all. This is a wincingly convincing exploration of friendship, feminism and unfulfilled potential, as viewed through the lives of three life-long friends. Will linger long after you’ve finished it.
Fleishman is in Trouble
US journalist turned author Brodesser-Akner is renowned for her whipsmart celebrity profiles for the New York Times and here she extends her talents to the portrait of a disintegrating marriage, a cross between the exemplary Where’d You Go Bernadette and Portnoy’s Complaint. Manhattanite doctor Toby Fleishman, initially appearing more sinned against than sinning, is left flailing after wife Rachel goes AWOL. However, all is not as it seems and as Toby takes a bleakly hilarious deep dive into the world of online dating, Brodesser-Akner deftly turns our expectations on their head.
Convenience Store Woman
A quirky heroine in the same vein as Eleanor Oliphant, Keiko Furukura has always been considered an unusual child, and her family worries that she will ever live a normal life. When she gets a job in a convenience store, she finds somewhere she can belong but comes under pressure to follow a more traditional path. Japanese author Murata has written ten books and this is the first to be translated into English. Inspired by Murata’s own former part-time job in a convenience store, it is a wryly observed exploration of the expectations placed on single women and the pressure to conform in Japanese society.
My Sister the Serial Killer
The eye-catching title of this audacious debut grabs the attention but it is Braithwaite’s skills as as storyteller that holds it. Nigerian nurse Korede’s practical skills and lack of squeamishness come in handy when she is left to clean up the murderous mess left behind by her bewitching, beautiful and sociopathic sister Ayoola. However, when Korede falls in love with a kind and handsome doctor, things become (even more) problematic. Braithwaite’s effortless prose and perfect balancing of tone makes this an intelligent and absorbing but effortless read.
Things in Jars
At the centre of this gloriously gothic detective novel is Bridie Devine, an inspiring and unusual heroine, vividly drawn by London-Irish writer Jess Kidd. Orphaned Dubliner Devine has risen from poverty and neglect to become the finest female detective of Victorian times. However, her latest case, searching for a missing child in London’s strange and sinister underworld tests her bravery to its limits. Expertly paced and skilfully plotted, this is a gloriously rewarding read.
Comparisons to Bridget Jones’ Diary do this debut an injustice, as Carty Williams’ fresh but raw take on modern womanhood deserves to stand on its own merits. It follows the adventures of Queenie Jenkins, a second generation British-Jamaican twentysomething, and her attempts to navigate her career, love life and family without spinning out of control.