Books - Fiction
Baker, Caroline Angus. Secrets of Spain Trilogy (Historical Fiction) - (New Zealand)
Set in Valencia Province, the series tells the story of two families, separated by the Spanish Civil War, reunited in the 21st C. Each book moves between two different timelines as they explore how past mistakes impact life today.
Blood in the Valencian Soil: Love and hate hidden in the legacy of the Spanish Civil War (2012)
March 1939 – as the Spanish Civil War ends, five Republicans in Cuenca know they are on the losing side and they could die as faceless statistics. 2009 – Luna and Cayetano want to find her “disappeared” grandfather and discover wounds yet to heal under Spain's “pact of forgetting.”
Vengeance in the Valencian Water (2014)
October 1957 – Guardia Civil officers devise a system of stealing babies to sell to Catholic families.
2010 – Luna & Cayetano discover a mass grave at Escondrijo; more ghosts tell the story of the '57 flood
Death in the Valencia Dust (2015)
September 1975 – Franco is dying, but his parting words leave a bitter legacy. Jaime Morales Pena, sword handler for Spain’s greatest bullfighter, finds himself caught up with Alazne, a Basque woman. With Franco's death, executions are handed down and Spain collapses into turmoil.
2015 – Luna still challenges “forgetting,”; Cayetano, reluctant to end his successful bullfighting career, the family must recognize their identity, Spain's turbulent present, and a potentially fractured future.
Craft, Kimberly. Elizabeth Bathory: A Memorie: As Told by her Court Master, Benedict Deseo (Historical Novel, 2011) - (American)
Desiring to know the truth behind his infamous mother's crimes, young Count Paul seeks the only man still alive who can tell Countess Bathory's story, court master and confidante, Benedict Desso. But, revealing the truth could destroy the man's sanity and ruin the family reputation which the count desperately wishes to preserve.
Dangarembga, Isitsi. Nervous Conditions (1st of a trilogy, 1988) - Zimbabwe
Set in 1970s Colonial Rhodesia, colonized women try to imagine and work their way out of a narrative that has already been decided for them. Longing for the liberation education would offer; extreme consequences of forced assimilation.
Reference: The Book of Not (2006) and This Mournable Body (2018)
Dangarembga, Isitsi. The Book of Not (2nd of a trilogy, 2006) - Zimbabwe
Set during the Rhodesian Civil War - how the promised rewards for assimilation often never materialize for those who seemingly voluntarily seek to assimilate; repressed identity;
Reference: Nervous Conditions (1988) and This Mournable Body (2018)
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. This Mournable Body (3rd of a trilogy, 2018) - Zimbabwe
The exhausting efforts to find employment, the terrible loneliness of a woman who has defied her family’s African traditions only to find Western ones no less limiting. Short list, 2020 Booker Prize;
Reference: Nervous Conditions (1988) and The Book of Not (2006)
Review: Alexandra Fuller , NYT (30 August 2018)
Ferrante, Elena; trans. Anna Goldstein. The Lying Life of Adults (Italian, 2020)
Young Giovanna (Naples, 1900), moving from childhood to adolescent, is drawn into the world of her brutal, volatile Aunt Vittoria who challenges her to look closely at the lies her refined parents live.
Ferrante, Elena; trans. Anna Golstein. The Neapolitan Quartet – (Italian, 2012-2015)
Portraits of Elena and Lila, intense, intelligent women as they face the ugly side of female experience: infidelity, reluctant motherhood, competitive friendship.
My Brilliant Friend – childhood - in brutal 1950s Naples; longing for education; competition for mastery
The Story of a New Name – adolescence - love affairs, diverging opportunities, and different paths
Those who Leave and Those who Stay – adults – darker, political implications
The Story of the Lost Child – maturity - relationships renewed in Naples
Refer IWC-V TV - Neapolitan Quartet TV series adapted as My Brilliant Friend (2018-2020)
Ganieva, Alisa. trans. Carol Apollonio. The Mountain and the Wall (Novel, 2015) - (Dagestan)
Trying to make sense of a crazy world; satire of N. Caucasus as a mix of medieval custom, superstition, radicalism, capitalism, bling, Sovietica, technology; overlapping narratives, unreliable narrator, and a sense of writerly joy despite grim subject matter.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper (Novela, 1892) - (American) - several editions available
Semi-autobiographical account of a young mother's descent into madness as she is increasingly isolated by her physician-husband at a country retreat with a depressingly-papered yellow wallpaper room. Isolation was a typical "cure" for sensitive, fragile ladies -- no reading or writing either.
Ihimaera, Witi. The Whale Rider (Fiction, 2003) - (New Zealand)
Pai, a young Maori (Whangara people) girl feels drawn as a leader of her village, but her grandfather rejects her claim. Your grandchildren might like to read this with you.
James, Henry. The Portrait of a Lady (Novel, 1881) – (American). Many reprints; look for one that includes James' own “Preface” which was written later.
Novel explores what might become of a spirited young lady should she suddenly inherit a fortune and gain independence. Details differences between America and Europe. How well does a male author capture the essence of his female characters? Also see James' Novella, The Turn of the Screw (1898).
Kepner, Susan Fulop, ed., trans. The Lioness in Bloom: Modern Thai Fiction About Women (Anthology, 1996) – (American)
Collection of women's stories from Thailand mirror 20th C female life: sexuality, abuse, oppression, humor, injustice, heartless society, loneliness, difficult choices.
Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook (Novel, 2013) – (British-Rhodesia)
Complex account of a writer's journals as she searches for identity amid promises of a new feminist world. Nobel Prize 2007
Mansfield, Katherine. “The Garden Party” and Other Stories (Stories, 1922) – (New Zealand-England). Penguin edition (2008) reviewed well.
Exquisite surfaces, beautiful depths, oblique approaches. Mansfield explores the unspoken, half-understood emotions of everyday experience. Beautiful, profound.
Marti, Carme, trans. Ana Herra. The Dove of Ravensbruck (Historical Novel, 2012)
Novel based on the life of Neus Català;
Also see Ashes in the Sky, English title for Un cel de plom: La vida de Neus
Català (Catalan) and Cenizas en el Cielo (Spanish) - 2007
Also see: Mar Trallero Cordero, Neus Català: La dona antifeixista a Europa (Catalan, 2008)
“Neus Català, Dogged Anti-Fascist and Camp Survivor, Dies at 103” Obituary by Katharine Q. Seelye,
NY Times, 21 May 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/obituaries/neus-catala-dead.html
McCullers, Carson. The Member of the Wedding (fiction, 1946) - American
Classic story of the dreams and frustrations of 12-year old Frankie who just doesn't fit into her small Southern town and plans to join her brother on his upcoming honeymoon so that she can see the world.
Reference: Shapland, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers (non-fiction, 2020)
Miller, Sue. Monogamy (fiction, 2020); American
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village of characters to remember recently deceased Graham, the dynamic central character. To Annie, Graham's photographer wife, monogamy's price may have been too high. What is the cost of a long, successful, loving marriage?
Radclyffe-Hall, Marguerite. The Well of Loneliness (Novel, 1928) - (British)
The anguished life of Stephen Gordon, who identifies as a “male lesbian.” An early treatment of the theme that ended up in a British obscenity trial and the destruction of the book. USA allowed publication after a long legal battle.
Robinson, Marianne. Housekeeping (Novel, 2004) – (American) Pulitzer Prize
Sisters Ruth and Lucille – orphaned by mother, grandmother, great aunts – end up with aunt Sylvie the “housekeeper” where they must deal with transience and memory, society constraining non-static world, pressure of conformity in a world in flux.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. The Last Man, 3 vols. (Novel, 1826) – (British) Many reprints, some scholarly
First dystopian novel, suppressed until 1960s, little-known follow-up to Frankenstein; set in 2073, traces the decline of civilization during a pandemic; gradual loss of friends, community, ideals.
Steil, Jennifer. The Ambassador's Wife (Historical Novel, 2016) - (American)
Based on Steil's years in the middle east as “an Ambassador's wife.” Narrative moves forward and back forth exploring women’s friendships against the backdrop of intrigue, terrorism, art, privilege, freedom, family, sexuality. Contrasts the freedom of the city against the “protection” of the embassy.
Steil, Jennifer. Exile Music (Novel, 2020) - (American)
Based on Steil's years in La Paz; narrated by Orly, the young daughter of a Jewish family of musicians who escape from Vienna during WWII. They end up in Bolivia where many others settled. Explores difficulty of immigrants trying to communicate in a foreign land and struggling to overcome their losses.
Szabó, Magda. trans. Lex Rix; intro. Ali Smith. The Door (Novel, 2015, orig 2005) - (Hungarian)
An unsettling, inter-dependent relathionship between two very different women: Magda, an educated writer, and Emerence, an illiterate peasant who is Magda's housekeeper. Also a film starring Helen Mirren. (2012)
Tersigni, Nicole; fwd. Jen Kirkman. Men to Avoid in Art and Life (Humor/art, 2020)
Mansplainers – very funny deadpan captions on art works in which men, who know less than the women, explain to the women what they should be doing or saying.
Undset, Sigrid. Kristin Lavransdatter, 3 Vol. (Epic Novel, 1920-1922) – (Norwegian) “The Wreath,” “The Wife,” “The Cross.” Nobel Prize, 1928. Several editions, but be sure to read a translation by Tiina Nunnaly
Follows the life of a passionate, strong-willed woman set in 14th C. Norway; her impetuous, irresponsible husband; her growing family; and the plague of 1349.
Walker, Alice. In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women (Stories, 1973)
Based upon stories women from various backgrounds told Walker as they search for love and dignity within a disturbing view of life in the South.
Webster, Jason – Inspector Max Camara mysteries (British/American/Spanish)
Not about women, but mysteries set in Valencia, our home. Each traces crimes set within the corruption of Valencia's various governing bodies.
Or the Bull Will Kill You (2011) – rigged bull fighting
A Death in Valencia (2012) – neighborhood “renewal” in Cabanal
The Anarchist Detective (2014) – saffron mafaia in Albacete
Blood Med (2014) – economic recession; homelessness
A Body in Barcelona (2015) – Catalan Independence
Fatal Sunset (2017) – right wing national intelligence outfit tied back to Franco
Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth (Novel, 1905)
Tragic decline of Lily Bart who tries to make her way through the high demands of Gilded Age NY society but without without financial assets or a guardian/protector.
Several film and TV adaptations.
Wyld, Evie. The Bass Rock (fiction, 2020) – England/Australia
Three generations of women – Ruth, Elizabeth, and Viviane – who live under the forbidding gaze of Bass Rock on the North Berwick coast of Scotland are linked to that of Sarah who was accused of being a witch in the 1700s. Small vignettes about other, anonymous women interject a sense of impending violence and havoc unleashed by men in their lives