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Writers’ Book Club: strong female characters

by Shay Fagg

Welcome to Writers’ Book Club, a monthly series where we ask up-and-coming writers to share their top 5 favourite books within a particular genre.

This month we delve into the exciting and empowering world of strong female characters with Open Colleges student, Shay Fagg.

Reading is a wonderful privilege and with the busy and bustling world we live in today, it is a great way to escape. A strong female led novel puts women firmly in focus, often casting females as powerful and empowering figures.

So, without further ado here are my top five strong female novels to make you feel like you can conquer the world!

My Sister’s Keeper

Jodi Picoult, first published by Atria in 2003

“Sometimes to get what you want the most, you have to do what you want the least”.

This novel beautifully showcases the need to stand up for what you believe in, even if it does come at a terrible cost. Making for an emotional, yet easy, read, My Sister’s Keeper tackles the topic of living with cancer and the effect that the disease can have on not only the sufferer, but on the people that love and surround them.

The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne, first published by Ticknor, Reed & Fields in 1850

“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom”.

Thought of as the first true strong female in American fiction, Hester Prynne shows tremendous strength when she is accused of adultery. Raising her illegitimate child in a hostile world all on her own, she embodies dignity, grace and integrity whilst weighted down under social conventions. A dip into a world long before our own, Hawthorne’s Scarlett Letter is a must-read classic.

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

Sophie Kinsella, first published by Black Swan in 2000

“Ok. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. It’s only a VISA bill. It’s a piece of paper; a few numbers. I mean, just how scary can a few numbers be?”

Dive into every girl’s fantasy as you follow Rebecca Bloomwood through her many shopping fiascos. With no such thing as budgets, this outrageously funny novel is a relaxing read to curl up on the couch with.

The Help

Kathryn Stockett, first published by Penguin Books in 2009

“Don’t waste your time on obvious things. Write about what disturbs you; particularly if it seems to bother no one else.”

Set in Mississippi in the civil rights era of the 1960s, The Help explores the lives of several different women including Skeeter Phelan, a recently graduated women, who is discovering that having an education means nothing compared to being married. Skeeter teams up with two maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, to write a novel about the lives and struggles of maids in Jacksonville at that time. The Help is an educating and entertaining read that will have you laughing and crying.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson, first published by Norstedts Förlag in 2005

“Everyone has secrets. It’s just a matter of finding out what they are.”

Originally written in Swedish, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is part one of the Millennium trilogy of crime novels. Not for the faint-hearted, this novel follows the crime solving and manipulating life of Lisbeth Salander, a 24-year-old hacker with a photographic memory and a dragon tattoo. Being a rather intense novel, I do give out a graphic content warning for this one.

Everyone needs to read a strong female led novel at least once in their lifetime. With excellent characters and extraordinary plots, these novels whip you away from your troubles and into the lives of others for a few moments, and who doesn’t want that?

Feeling creative?

Have you thought of starting a blog? Or even exploring your creative passion further with an online course? With Open Colleges, you can study online, around your life to build skills and even start a whole new career. Find your course now.

3 Responses

  1. Elli says:

    I really enjoyed this list I found it really well written and to the point, a couple I have read and a couple to put on the list well done Shay!

  2. Nicole Dillon says:

    Thanks Shay for your article. I’ve read two of your five listed, so better pick up the others at the library over summer! That’s when I’m not busy getting my work done for the course that is! Had a crazy busy year and now trying to catch up on well overdue work- a DN for my first assessment has given me plenty of spark though!

    • Sarah MacDiarmid says:

      Great work, Nicole!

      You’re doing so well, I’m sure you’ll still find time to relax with one of Shay’s recommendations!

      All the best,
      Sarah, Open Colleges

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