Rather than listing the ‘classics’ (including the likes Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Lousia May Alcott) here’s a list of more modern books by authors who are excellent feminists in their own rights, as well as links to buy the books on hive.co.uk.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

Often mistaken as male, Harper Lee (b. 1926) wrote what is arguably one of the most famous novels of the 20th Century. She is notably reclusive and recently, more than fifty years after the release of To Kill a Mockingbird, it was announced that she was releasing her second novel Go Set a Watchman later this year.

For all of those that didn’t take GCSE English, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) is a novel set between 1933-35 in a fictional town in Albama, USA. The story focuses on six-year old Scout (based on Lee herself) who lives with her older brother Jem and their widowed father Atticus. Atticus is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman in the same town. Told from the perspective of Scout herself she explores the irrationality of adult attitudes towards race and class and the difficult journey her father faces as he struggles for justice.  

Letter to my Daughter

Maya Angelou 

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was an African-American author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer. In 1993 she read her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton, becoming the second person in history to read a poem at a presidential inauguration and the first African-American and woman to do so.

Throughout her lifetime she published several books of poetry, autobiographies, essays and helped to create plays, films and TV shows spanning over fifty years. Letter to my Daughter (2009) is a collection of (often slightly disjointed) anecdotes and advice compiled from twenty years of her own notes and essays, written to an imagined daughter (and the thousands of people who saw her as a mother figure) in order to share her wisdom.

The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy

Suzanna Arundhati Roy  (b. 1961) is an Indian author and political activist involved with campaigns for human rights. Growing up in the Southern Christian state of Kerela after the divorce of her parents, her own life seems to mirror the setting in God of Small Things (1997), Roy’s debut novel which is set in the late 1960s in the village of Aymanam in Kerla. Roy, herself, described it as “an inextricable mix of experience and imagination”.

The story focuses on the often tragic childhood experiences of fraternal twins Estha and Rahel and covers themes revolving around social discrimination, Indian history and politics and the caste-system, depicted via a non-linear time frame. The novel’s style is quite unusual, as pages and pages are often dedicated to listing long details paragraphs about seemingly unimportant aspects of a character or a place, often with lengthy recounts of a person’s past. The vocabulary is very adjective-heavy and phrases are repeated, but the further you begin to read into the book, the more charmed you become by Roy’s style of writing.

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank

By far the youngest on our list, Anne Frank (1929-1945) was a German born Jewish girl brought up in Amsterdam, who, during the Nazi occupation, spent over two years in hiding along with her family in a concealed room behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father worked. Frank kept a regular and well-written diary recounting her initially mundane experiences as a child, that began to develop into a beautiful and poignant commentary of human experience that also touched on more abstract subjects such as her belief in God and her definition of human nature.

In August 1944, after being betrayed by an unidentified informer, a group of German Policemen found and arrested the Frank family who were separated and sent to concentration camps, where all the family apart from Frank’s father, Otto, died under different circumstances. Otto Frank was later given the diary after it was found strewn on the floor of their former hiding place, and was convinced by friends to send it to publishers for consideration. Since the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl (1947) Frank has become an icon of holocaust victims, and is now one of the most recognised faces of the terrible events.

The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American poet, short-story writer and author, releasing just one novel, The Bell Jar (1963) as well as a series of published short stories and poems. The Bell Jar was originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas and is a semi-autobiographical account of Plath’s life told from the perspective of the story’s protagonist, Esther Greenwood.

The novel starts in New York as Greenwood narrates the experiences of working at a fashion magazine as part of an internship she won after submitted a short story, and goes onto describe her dealings with mental illness. A touching and honest look at the feelings of self and others involved, it received mixed reviews, mainly due to its autobiographical content and the questions surrounding Plath’s suicide in 1963, after years of battling depression.

 

Share some of your favourite novels by female authors in the comments below.

 

Image Credit: Harper Lee- Unknown Photographer