There is no doubt about it: women have written some of history’s greatest novels. With legendary names like Charlotte Bronte, Harper Lee, Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood producing stellar masterpieces across the years, it’s easy to see why you might be looking to start your female fiction journey with some of the classics.
So, let’s take a look at four of the best women’s literature novels from history, so you can make a fantastic start on feminising your fiction section:
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
One of the most important novels in history let alone by a female author, Jane Eyre revolutionised the way people write fiction by taking a journey into the main character’s consciousness as a means of depicting their development throughout the novel.
And not only does Jane Eyre look into the psyche in a way that no novel had done before, it is also an intriguing critique of 19th Century society, including where it stood in regards to class, feminism, sexuality and more.
Jane Eyre is one of history’s go-to classics and for good reason: Bronte essentially created a new style of writing that has served as an uncompromising inspiration for countless authors, with the eponymous character navigating her way through youth, love and femininity in the face of conservative society.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
One of Australia’s greatest ever novels is also one of its eeriest, with the unforgettable Picnic at Hanging Rock providing a strange and supernatural look at the Aussie bush around the turn of the 20th Century.
Valentine’s Day, 1900, and the girls of Appleyard College are taken to nearby Hanging Rock to enjoy a holiday picnic. After lunch, a few of the girls decide to climb up the monolith and never return, thus having a profound impact on the remaining schoolgirls, their teachers and the community in general.
Adapted to become a classic Aussie film, the novel itself is a rich and evocative tale of a place that appears to have a supernatural hold over those who come into contact with it.
Although not a true story, Picnic at Hanging Rock still inspires a certain unease amongst those who visit the rock and often take the story to be true.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale has recently taken the world by storm with its epic series adaptation, but it has long been an important work of women’s literature that influenced countless dystopian works that came after it.
Set in the near-future, The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of a woman named Offred, who – along with the other “handmaids” – is forced to conceive children for the white supremacist and totalitarian men of the Republic of Gilead.
A monumental work of feminist literature, as well as an early-er classic in the now-endless dystopian canon, The Handmaid’s Tale is a story that depicts female loss of agency in a patriarchal society like no other, making it a great read before joining the series latecomers.
- Monkey Grip by Helen Garner
Another classic Aussie novel, Monkey Grip has long been a classic and controversial work of Australian fiction. With its stark depictions of addiction, sexuality and love, Garner documented the Australian counterculture of the 1970s through a rocky love story between Nora and her heroin-addled partner who is anything but reliable.
A true classic of Australian fiction, Monkey Grip is considered one of Australia’s first contemporary novels and was an influence on Aussie writers looking to step away from the conservative constraints of the past and towards a style with a bit more edge.