Women Write Now | International Women’s Day 2018


It is International Women’s Day 2018, and to mark this great day Waterstones is celebrating women writers past and present.

This International Women’s Day, as we celebrate 100 years of women’s right to vote in Britain, we bring together our selection of 100 books which represent the wealth and diversity of women’s writing throughout history. Historians, novelists, thinkers, activists, campaigners, scientists and politicians; pioneering women of the past, inspirational voices of the future.

There are some fantastic books available on their site, and if you are an avid reader like me then this is a great excuse to see what’s available and pick up a few more books.

Check out the store here even if it is just to admire the wealth of women writers available and be inspired by the many amazing things they’ve written over the years.

Happy International Women’s Day! x


Waterstones Women Write Now Campaign: https://www.waterstones.com/campaign/international-womens-day

10 Of The Most Powerful Female Characters In Literature


Since March is Women’s History Month, we’ve been thinking a lot about the women who have had positive and lasting impacts on our lives — and perhaps not surprisingly for a bunch of literary geeks like us, we’ve realized that many of them are fictional. For all the hullabaloo about the dearth of strong female characters in modern culture, thankfully there are some wonderfully powerful, kick-ass maidens that have inspired us with their strength, self-discovery, and incredible brilliance over the years. See our list of ten of the most powerful female characters in literature below, and then be sure to pipe up with your own suggestions — we’ve chosen the ten who resonate most deeply with us, but since there are many more than ten strong ladies in literature (thank goodness), we want to know which ones blow you away on a daily basis.

Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre

One of the earliest representations of an individualistic, passionate and complex female character, Jane Eyre knocks our socks off. Though she suffers greatly, she always relies on herself to get back on her feet — no wilting damsel in distress here. As China Miéville wrote, “Charlotte Brontë’s heroine towers over those around her, morally, intellectually and aesthetically; she’s completely admirable and compelling. Never camp, despite her Gothic surrounds, she takes a scalpel to the skin of the every day.”

Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter series

In the Harry Potter books, Hermione starts as an insufferable know-it-all, blossoms into a whip-smart beauty who doesn’t suffer fools (except Ron), and ends up as the glue that holds the whole operation together. Hermione’s steadfastness and sheer intelligence (plus the fact that she’s the only one who has ever read Hogwarts: A History) save her two best friends time and time again, and she’s the only one of the three never to wholly break down in a crisis. Intelligence often translates into strength, but only when wielded by a steady hand — and Hermione just happens to have both, and compassion to boot. That’s our kind of girl.

The Wife of Bath, The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer didn’t mean to make the Wife of Bath as big of a character as he did. Early drafts show that her role was meant to be much smaller and more one-dimensional, but somewhere along the line, Chaucer became enamored of his female creation, and eventually her prologue ended up twice as long as her tale. The Wife of Bath is lewd and lascivious — but behind all the dirty jokes, she’s making an argument for female dominance and a woman’s right to control her body, using her considerable rhetorical skill to simultaneously underscore and attack the anti-feminist traditions of the time. Not too shabby for 14th century literature.

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games trilogy

Sure, Katniss annoys us no end with all her boy-related waffling and wailing, but any girl who can shoot like that deserves a place on this list. Not to mention the fact that she survived not one but two 24-person fights to the death, one of which was designed specifically to kill her. We’re just saying.

Hester Prynne, The Scarlet Letter

Though Hester Prynne, who is condemned by her Puritan neighbors for having a child out of wedlock, is sometimes seen as a victim, she manages to survive with dignity and faith throughout, which we think makes her pretty darn powerful. NPR has described her as being “among the first and most important female protagonists in American literature. She’s the embodiment of deep contradictions: bad and beautiful, holy and sinful, conventional and radical… [she] can be seen as Hawthorne’s literary contemplation of what happens when women break cultural bounds and gain personal power.”

Éowyn, The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Though Tolkien’s novels aren’t exactly known for their female protagonists, who could be more powerful than the woman who killed the Witch-king of Angmar? A shieldmaiden who is itching to defend her countrymen from the first minute we see her, Éowyn disguises herself as a man to follow her friends into battle. Bad guys should be careful making statements like “No living man can kill me” when they’re fighting ladies.

Lyra Silvertongue, His Dark Materials trilogy

Not only is she the instrumental piece in a literally cosmic war, the unruly and headstrong Lyra, who is twelve years old at the beginning of the trilogy, can do something no one else can: read the alethiometer, which tells her the truth of the present and future. She wins the hearts of those around her through her strong convictions, and earns the name “Silvertongue” after using her wits to fool the unfoolable. After all, words are the most powerful weapons of all.

Janie Crawford, Their Eyes Were Watching God

A remarkably independent woman, Janie Crawford’s strength is in her ability to keep on going, no matter what her life throws at her, and to uphold her dignity throughout. She challenges the conventions of who should love whom and what leads to a happy life, her experience leading her on a journey towards an acute self-realization.

Hua Mulan, The Ballad of Mulan

Though you may know Mulan best from the Disney film, she was originally imagined in the 6th century Chinese poem The Ballad of Mulan and has since been reinterpreted in various literary and non-literary forms. Unlike in the Disney version, which features a bumbling girl trying to be a soldier, the traditional figure is a totally bad-ass seventeen year old, already a martial arts and weapons expert — just things she picked up on the side because she was too smart to be totally happy with her life of weaving. She goes to war in place of her father, wins all over the place, and then comes home and returns to her normal life. No big deal.

Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series

The powerful female protagonist of the hour is also one of the strongest women on this list. A world class computer hacker with a photographic memory, she’s also the survivor of an abusive childhood, which makes her a fiercely anti-social heroine with a violent streak. Characterized by many as a “feminist avenging angel,” Lisbeth’s brutality is nothing to aspire to — but she sure gets the job done.


Via http://flavorwire.com/265847/10-of-the-most-powerful-female-characters-in-literature/view-all

7 Books That Are More Feminist Than You’d Think

wuthering heights emily bronte

Reading while also being a feminist can be a demoralising endeavor. It feels like for every brilliant piece of feminist writing, there’s an unassailable mountain of misogynistic nonsense (I’m looking at you, Ernest Hemingway). So much of what we read in secondary school literature, for example, is written by white men, about white men, and for white men, and it starts to get exhausting. Can we only read books of essays on feminist theory for the rest of time? Are any other books safe? Well, these books might not change your entire gender-based worldview, but they certainly all have feminist messages buried in there somewhere. Here are a few books that turn out to be more feminist than you’d think.

I mean sure, we can all enjoy the occasional story about hunting lions in Africa with your shrewish wife, but over half of the planet’s population is made up of genders other than men. It’s tempting to give up on male authors entirely and go live underground and/or only read Ella Enchanted on repeat for the rest of your life. But if that’s sounding a little unrealistic, here are a few books that have more to say on women’s rights than you might have guessed:

1. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare

Sappy romance between hormonal teens…or secret feminist manifesto? Romeo and Juliet has quite the reputation for being a classic love story, but the way it deals with gender is very nearly revolutionary. Despite being a teen boy, Romeo is the emotional, romantic, sensitive character, who kills himself using poison, which is traditionally a “woman’s weapon.” Juliet, on the other hand, is a thoughtful, logical teenage girl, who has a whole monologue about how excited she is to have sex with her boyfriend, and who stabs herself to death in a very traditionally masculine form of violence.

2. ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce

Yes, James Joyce writes a lot about dudes staring at women and yes, a lot of his fans are lit bros who’ll make you read their screenplay and then ghost you. But if you can make it through Ulysses, you just might find that Joyce is more complex than that. The book is all about Leopold Bloom, but Molly Bloom, his wife, gets the final chapter all to herself. The last few pages are a stream of consciousness monologue from Molly as she masturbates, and it’s presented as a beautiful, empowering, life-affirming event (that got the book repeatedly banned for obscenity).

3. ‘The Suffragette Scandal’ by Courtney Milan

A lot of people write off the romance genre as trashy or backwards, but there are many well-written feminist love stories out there. The Suffragette Scandal, for one, is a nuanced and sexy romance between an outspoken suffragette and a man who actually appreciates her for her wit, tenacity, and bold opinions.

4. ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ by Hanan Al-Shaykh

Like most classic folklore collections, the original One Thousand and One Nights isn’t exactly up to date on gender politics. But Hanan Al-Shaykh’s beautiful, witty re-telling of these stories manages to highlight complex women throughout. The stories are equally funny and gruesome, and at the center of all of them is young Shahrazad, spinning tales to save her life, and to protect other women from the king’s wrath.

5. ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen

People seem to be split on Jane Austen: either they think she’s a brilliant proto-feminist, or they dismiss her books as classic chick lit. Those “chick lit” people need to take a long hard look in the mirror and then read Persuasion. It may not have as much of a feminist following as Pride and Prejudice, but Persuasion is the most mature of Austen’s novels: the story of an old-ish young woman looking for a second chance with a man she once spurned. But more than that, our heroine is forced to deal with the existential question of her own place in society as a woman who never married (she’s a dried up old maid of 27!).

6. ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ by Lemony Snicket

I don’t know that anyone would call Lemony Snicket’s darkly humorous children’s series sexist, but it’s certainly not the book that comes to mind first in a discussion of feminist kids’ books. That’s too bad, because the Baudelaire siblings eschew traditional gender roles and deal with a lot of sexist creeps. Violet, the mechanically minded inventor, is a great example of a young women who can enjoy hair ribbons and machinery.

7. ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë

When it comes to the Brontës and feminism, Jane Eyre gets most of the attention. After all, Jane Eyre is very clearly the story of one woman growing into her own independence, while Wuthering Heights is… more of a story about two awful people who love/hate each other until they angrily die. But, I’d argue that Wuthering Heights is important in part because it has an unlikable female protagonist. So many great books star antihero men, so why can’t Cathy be an antihero woman? Wuthering Heights challenges us to invest in the story of a young woman who is not particularly pleasant or nice, but who is still a fully realised individual with passions and thoughts.

Via: https://www.bustle.com/p/7-books-that-are-more-feminist-than-you-think

Gone Girls, Found | Talking with Gillian Flynn and Cheryl Strayed


CHICAGO — The pairing of Gillian Flynn and Cheryl Strayed seems at once too obvious and not obvious enough.

Too obvious because both are female writers who happen to have had best-selling books optioned by Reese Witherspoon and made into high-octane, swinging-for-the-fences films.

And not obvious enough because Ms. Flynn specializes in probing dark, unsavory recesses of the human psyche, like her antiheroine Amy in the 2012 novel “Gone Girl.” Ms. Strayed rocketed to fame the same year with her memoir “Wild,” about her redemptive 1,100-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail as a brokenhearted divorced 26-year-old grieving the early death of her mother.

Yet the authors share similarities that run deep. Feminists both, they create bluntly authentic, deeply engaging stories through characters that defy stereotypes.

They have also forged roads to Hollywood gold. Directed by David Fincher and adapted by Ms. Flynn herself, the film “Gone Girl” has earned more than $300 million globally. “Wild,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, adapted by Nick Hornby and starring Ms. Witherspoon, is one of the season’s most anticipated films.

The first and last time Ms. Flynn and Ms. Strayed met was two years ago at a literary event in St. Paul, and they reconvened on a wintry Halloween here, greeting each other happily with hugs. Ms. Flynn, 43, has a newborn, her second child, and lives with her family in Chicago, and Ms. Strayed, 46, happened to be in town with her husband and two children.

Here are excerpts from their conversation.

Q. Tell me about when you first met, in St. Paul.

A. Cheryl Strayed It was freezing. We went on a hike, and I didn’t have a jacket. It was like “Wild” all over again, with the elements for which I was unprepared. And I remember I was talking about how our books are so different, readers have a different relationship to them. People who read “Wild,” they’re like, “You don’t realize it, but you’re my best friend.”

Gillian Flynn [Deadpan] They don’t feel that way about Amy?

Strayed Maybe it’s a little more like they’re fascinated to know who you are. Who’s the person behind that crazy story?

This question is from a Times reader: “Witherspoon wanted to create better roles for women, but has ‘Gone Girl’ shown women in a better role? Is it empowering or continuing stereotypes?”

Flynn I’ve been asked that a lot, and to me the answer is always: “Of course, it’s not misogynistic.” Women shouldn’t be expected to only play nurturing, kind caretakers.

That’s always been part of my goal — to show the dark side of women. Men write about bad men all the time, and they’re called antiheroes.

Were you surprised that that was the reaction you got?

Flynn I had about 24 hours where I hovered under my covers and was like: “I killed feminism. Why did I do that? Rats. I did not mean to do that.” And then I very quickly kind of felt comfortable with what I had written.

Cheryl, it’s your story, but did you get blowback from people, or was it just more relief at having told an honest story?

Strayed It never occurred to me, not once, that the book would be read as an inspirational tale. I really have no interest in likability when it comes to characters. It’s always about credibility, and to be credible you have to seem human. One of the most difficult things reading about the movie “Wild” was when people started writing about it and me in this shorthand way. I knew they hadn’t read the book, because the things they would say about me were just patently untrue.

What kind of stuff were you getting?

Strayed Often, they’ll say my problems were self-inflicted. And really the two biggest problems I began the trail with were the opposite of self-inflicted: the dead mother and the abusive father who wasn’t in my life. Those were my two most significant wounds, neither of which I inflicted upon myself, both of which I had to heal in myself.

It’s interesting what Gillian is saying. I think the lazy interpretation of Amy is she’s this evil psychopath and she’s all darkness. I think so much of the reason “Gone Girl” is so successful is that all of those very winning passages where Amy writes about her romantic life, falling in love with her husband, the way she constructs herself as a woman in the world. Those are very recognizable to us.

Flynn I think we wouldn’t have heard as much anger about it if she was more dismissible. She’s understandable, and that makes her a little harder to just write off. She’s not Norman Bates’s mom just sitting there in a rocking chair being evil.

Is there a double standard, where male characters don’t get that level of scrutiny?

Flynn The likability thing, especially in Hollywood, is a constant conversation, and they’re really underrating their audience when they have that conversation. What I read and what I go to the movies for is not to find a best friend, not to find inspirations, not necessarily for a hero’s journey. It’s to be involved with characters that are maybe incredibly different from me, that may be incredibly bad but that feel authentic.

When you were writing the books, did you think, “I’m breaking the mold and pushing the edges of these women characters?”

Flynn A theme that has always interested me is how women express anger, how women express violence. That is very much part of who women are, and it’s so unaddressed. A vast amount of literature deals with cycles of violence about men, antiheroes. Women lack that vocabulary.

Strayed The story I wrote has an ancient tradition in literature, man against nature, the hero’s journey. I was conscious of the narratives that I was both taking part in and also countering because the variation on the theme is: It was a woman, and it wasn’t “versus.” I say the wild felt like home to me. It wasn’t me trying to conquer it; it was me living in it. So much about “Wild” is about acceptance and surrender and vulnerability. To me that’s the greatest strength, not this conquering kind of narrative that we have embedded in our bones.

[To Ms. Flynn:] Is “Gone Girl” the movie being talked about as a feminist film or an anti-feminist film, or is the jury out on that?

Flynn The jury is still out. That’s what’s been interesting: Is it anti-woman? Is it anti-man?

Strayed What do you think it is?

Flynn To me, it’s neither. It’s about two specific people who are battling and who happen to be a man and a woman. I certainly enjoyed playing with those gender roles. Amy is certainly a character who understands every single female stereotype — and uses it. So when people say she’s embodying awful stereotypes about women, I say, “Yes, exactly, and that’s kind of the point.” She knows every trope there is. She’s a storyteller, she’s a studier, and she has absolutely no compunction about using the female victim role, using the femme fatale role, using the girl-next-door role.

Strayed I was so mindful that I had not written a book for women. I think the death of us would be if our films or our books were interpreted in this kind of “You go, girl” thing. And I think the last frontier for women is to say we are fully human, which means that our stories are as relevant to men as they are to women.

Flynn I would love it if I could do an event without a very well-meaning man telling me, “I don’t normally read books by women.” Do you get that?

Strayed All the time. One of the first experiences I had when “Wild” came out was this male radio host interviewed me, and right before we went live, he said, “I picked your book up and I couldn’t stop.” And then we’d go live and he’d go, “Cheryl Strayed has written a great book for women.”

Where does the twisted girl come from?

Strayed I remember, at our event we did together, you told some funny story about being a kid, it was about some early indicator.

Flynn I had a bunch of cousins, all girls, we’d play dress-up, and they’d always go for the princess costumes, and I was like, “I’ll be the witch” And we had this game called Mean Aunt Rosie, where I was basically their evil caretaker aunt.

Strayed I do think those things are like early indicators of what our obsessions are going to be as writers. When I was 6 and 7, when my mom’s friends were going to come over, she’d say “O.K., you’re only allowed to ask three questions.” Because otherwise I would get them in a corner and just grill them about things that were kind of shocking to them.

I wanted to hear from other people what they thought about their wounds, and I was trying to find out in ways that made adults very uncomfortable. I’ve always been the one to ask a question beyond the one that’s appropriate.

I want to talk about that move from book to screen. Cheryl, were you O.K. with Nick Hornby and was that difficult for you, turning it over?

Strayed He read “Wild” the first week it was out. I didn’t know him, and he wasn’t being considered as the screenwriter at that point. He just wrote me the world’s nicest fan email. So when Nick came on the project, I felt he understood the book on a deep level. It was always clear that I would read the screenplay, I would weigh in on it, I would be listened to, and I was.

Flynn Which is huge. You and I both talked about the stories you know about the author going to Hollywood are full of heartbreak. We both ended up with Reese, who is a woman of her word and does really care about writing, loves telling a story right.

You were working with David Fincher, who is known to be thorough.

Flynn I was on the set, but the script was locked by then. We just had a great back and forth, a lot of it by phone, since I’m in Chicago. When you hear David Fincher is going to direct your movie it’s, “Oh my God, I’ve got to step up my game.” But I wanted a David Fincher version of “Gone Girl,” so I was very much inclined to step back.

Strayed With Jean-Marc, I told him: “I give you my book. The only thing I ask is that you make a perfect film.” And he laughed. I gave him my opinions only when he asked for them.

And I told Reese the first time we talked, “You need to make this your story, not mine.”

Now, because I was so much a part of this, I would totally adapt my own book. I would do what Gillian did.

Via: https://nytimes.com/talking-with-the-authors-of-gone-girl-and-wild