The male gaze persists in literature, but as the playing field gets levelled, more and more women are reclaiming their narratives. If you like to read female characters written by women authors, pick up these five novels for their moving portraits of womanhood. By Paridhi Badgotri
Capturing the nuances of the female experience is not easy. Traditionally, literary appreciation was reserved for male narratives, and authentic portrayals of womanhood were overlooked or trivialised. Today, when stories of women written by female authors are receiving the attention they deserve, it is a call to celebrate some of the best accounts ever written.
At Kunzum, we stock plenty of titles by female authors that feature memorable characters. Here are five that we recommend you start with.
A Reading List of Women Characters Written by Women Authors
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
Munro is famous for writing short stories, and this book of hers is the only one categorised by some as a novel even though it is really a set of short stories—all centred on a single person. In this unique book, the Nobel laureate chronicles the life of a young woman, Del Jordan, in the rural Ontario of the 1940s.
That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award, That Long Silence portrays a woman trying to erase a ‘long silence’ that began in her childhood and has continued to be rooted in her self. In a small suburban flat in Bombay, Jaya grapples with the frustration of her 17-year-long marriage, disappointment with her teenage children, and failure at writing. Soon, her struggles with her identity come to the surface.
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
While challenging traditional prose style and mixing wry humour with emotional depth, Mieko Kawakami tells the journey of three women as they confront oppressive conventions of Japanese society and set out on their own paths towards futures that they can own. This is a book about women resisting patriarchy and grabbing the reins of their bodily autonomy — and ultimately their freedom — that’s why its popularity transcended borders and spoke to women of many races and nationalities.
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Written by Nobel laureate Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook narrates the story of a single mother, Anna Wulf. Set in colonial Africa during WWII, the novel centres around Anna’s struggle with writing and her flirtations with communism. The most interesting element of the novel is its structure — Anna maintains four personal diaries of different colours where she records four separate aspects of her life. For instance, a red-coloured diary records her political life and the yellow one is a chronicle of Anna’s emotional experiences.
After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz
After Sappho celebrates female trailblazers of the 19th and the 20th century by giving them a collective narrative voice. Virginia Woolf, Lina Poletti, and Sarah Bernhardt, among others, forge their own queer identities and claim authority over their lives through Schwartz’s pen. Their narratives converge and ignite a new way of looking at the past and conjure hope for a brighter future.