Our collection of feminist-minded fiction celebrates an extraordinary range of styles, genres, themes and stories from around the world, and across centuries. Though wildly diverse, the books share one overriding criteria – they centre women. In them we meet trailblazing heroines who tread their own paths. Wise women who walk on the wild side. Adventurers of the political and erotic kind. Wayward girls and wicked women, to borrow the title of one of Angela Carter’s works of non-fiction.
One of the earliest books included is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. First published in 1892, this feverish story explores women’s mental health and issues around creativity, self-expression and the restraints of marriage with power and prescience. Staying with American writers, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is another seminal novel on mental health - a dark (and often dryly comic) analysis of 1950s America based on the author’s experiences as a young woman.
Then there’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’s sublimely crisp reimagining of Jane Eyre. Through making Bertha, the “madwoman in the attic”, her narrator, Rhys makes a powerful statement about agency, and who gets to have their story told. Though Rhys’s stylistic opposite, Angela Carter also explores agency through her riotously exuberant short stories and novels, particularly her deliciously playful fairy tale re-imaginings. Yet a different kind of agency (and playfulness) is explored by Anaïs Nin through erotically-charged short stories that centre female pleasure and desire.
Skipping to contemporary writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a tremendous force in fiction and feminist thought. Her novels ring with boldness and grace, while her We Should All Be Feminists essay makes a flawless, lucid argument for the continued - and urgent - necessity of feminism. A recent personal favourite is Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Patsy, a stirring novel that moves from Jamaica to America, traversing generations and cultures, exposing white privilege as it explores sexuality, motherhood and mother-daughter relationships.
We’ve also included several contemporary Young Adult novels with feminist themes, among them Mary’s Monster, an illustrated verse novel that explores the life and work of Mary Shelley, daughter of the mother of modern feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft. Another YA favourite is Watch Us Rise, a smart and awe-inspiring call-to-action page-turner set in a high school.
Read on to explore a Pandora’s box of an alternative kind - in this case, the box should be opened, for it’s filled with the words of some of the world’s finest writers.