The benchmark book is Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner, plus another Women’s Lives and Relationships title of your choosing.
“Women’s fiction explores the lives of female protagonists, with a focus on their many-layered relationships with spouses, parents, children, friends, and community. The woman (or women) is the star of the story, and her emotional development drives the plot.” — Women’s fiction : a guide to popular reading interests by Rebecca Vnuk and Nanette Donohue.
For a lengthier definition and 10 authors to know:
Vnuk, Rebecca. Rebecca’s Rules: Defining Women’s Fiction. FEATURE. First published March 15, 2013 (Booklist).
Please comment on this post with your second title choice to avoid duplication.
Some resources for finding a second title:
Bookpage Women’s Fiction reviews
Getting Up to Speed in Women’s Fiction – Novelist
Top 10 Women’s Fiction: 2016 – Booklist
BookList: Top Ten Women’s Fiction on Audio
Bookreporter: Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight
Notes from our meeting:
Women’s Lives and Relationships
13 June 2016
(Apologies — the laptop on which Dylan took notes died halfway through the initial discussion, the following are paraphrased quotations and notes from discussion of Little Earthquakes)
This book, and others in the genre, cast a broad net of relatability. There are so many characters, themes, settings, and challenges that the hope is that any reader could find something to relate to: be it, in this instance, parenting, striving for material comfort, support of friends, Philadelphia, infidelity. Emotional and psychological component of books challenges. Each character in this instance, and there are many here, has an extensive supportive group of friends. The story hit a lot of emotional points like a film, and was often very clear, sometimes to a fault for some readers, in the intent of each moment. (This is where you cry, this is where you wish you had friends like that or reflect on those you have). Perhaps unrealistic or heightened in its exaggeration of each component, the books seem to be at a constant pace of high drama and crisis.
Checklist of women’s fiction:
Happy ever after not guaranteed.
Main characters are women.
Story is character driven.
Author is female. (A point for discussion, male authors with similar subject matter often don’t have the emotional depth, something about them don’t ring true). Writers are going to be women because there are going to be a depth of experience that can’t be faked.
They can be historical, love and romance may be present but are not the heart of the story.
Discussion of genre and how it evolves with changing gender roles.
Alene – Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Three women WWII – Polish girl arrested transported to Ravensbruck , German Doctor hired at Ravensbruck, NY Socialite working for the cause from NY. Compelling, based on real characters, learning about real life events like most historical novels. Experimentation at Ravensbruck on “Ravensbruck Rabbits.”
Kat – My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Dark, a lot of violence but not described casually. Feels like a memoir, personal, about friendship and coming of age. Portrays the complexities of female friendship. Wildly popular series with pseudonymous author. Describes relationship with friend with gravity and attention.
Jill – Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Small town NC two sisters, Claire quiet caterer lives in inherited house, younger sister Sydney opposite, rebellious, takes off for ten years and shows up one day without explanation with a 5 year old, never speaking of past. Some romantic elements, side stories but really about their coming together.
Ellen – My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Stroud. Set in NY hospital, with view of Chrysler building. good at analyzing all the relationships in woman’s life but felt like it sidestepped details about. Format very different.
Josh – Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. 50 year old artist having retrospective in Toronto. Two storylines, present and going back to her childhood, her relationship with three girls in her preteen years, their cruelty and why she blocked out. Looks back on her relationships, and social movements from decades. About relationships, but also about time and perspective, what’s important looking back, sensory descriptions of memories.
Susan – I Take You by Eliza Kennedy. Good, different. A week in the life of a young lawyer who has gone home to Key west where her family is gathering for a wedding. Issue of fidelity and trying to determine whether she can get married to this ideal suitor because she is wild, drinks and hot. First novel. There is a tragic event in her background which she has suppressed but is coming to terms, funny, sexy, good read.
Faith – Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray. Satirical about middle aged women becoming invisible – literally. Middle aged contentedly married woman with two recently launched children, husband doctor nice but she never sees him, dog is seemingly only one who pays attention. She becomes invisible no one notices, she tries to see how long before people notice, she joins a support group for invisible women. She goes on investigate nature of phenomenon. Fast paced and light despite taking on such heavy material.
Julie – Carly Phillips bachelor series. More of a romance it turns out. Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. Set on island in NC, beach read. Riley summering on island, waiting for husband who arrives on weekends, instead of him she gets divorce papers. Finds support of island friends, other romances.
Paula – Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughn. Head of baking company has died, company has contest to see who will replace her as head of company. The novel equivalent of The Greatest British Bake-Off. Tragedy behind the story was the bakers inability to have children which drove her to become a baker.
Molly – American Housewife by Helen Ellis. Short stories, all very different, dark funny twisted, set in NY. Southern Lady Code, How to be a grown-ass lady.
– P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern set in Ireland, starts with tragedy and then follows as she recovers with help of her friends, rediscovers herself.
Janet – The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard. Published in 1862, set in Massachusetts: two sisters grow up in a small town and struggle to be individuals and live interesting lives.