Women's fiction

What do you expect to find when you seek out the 'women's fiction' section at a bookstore? What kinds of narratives does women's fiction deliver? Is women's fiction the same as women's writing? If these questions have piqued your curiosity, read on to learn what women's fiction is about.

Women's fiction Women's fiction

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Table of contents

    Women’s fiction: definition

    Women’s fiction is typically used in the book trade as a fiction genre category.

    Women’s fiction: a label for fictional narratives centred on women and their struggles, which eventually lead to their personal growth.

    An example of women’s fiction is Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (2014), which was successfully adapted into a series by HBO.

    It is vital to distinguish women’s fiction from women's writing. While women’s fiction features women and emphasises their struggles and perseverance, women's writing is a literary category that refers to books written by women. These two terms, however, are not mutually exclusive. Since women's fiction could lean into the subject of woman's rights, the fight for these rights, and also be written by a woman, it could qualify as both women’s fiction and women’s writing.

    An example of such a book is The Help (2009) by Kathryn Stockett. The book is written by a woman, qualifying it as women's writing. The book's central theme is the rights and struggles of African American women in 1960s Mississippi, thus qualifying the book as a work of women's fiction.

    Contemporary women's fiction

    Contemporary women's fiction is a sub-category of the women's fiction genre.

    Contemporary women's fiction: women's fiction narratives that are set at the same time they are written. The reader will, therefore, be able to relate to the social, political, or economic issues presented in the narrative through their lived experiences.

    An example of contemporary women's fiction is Wish You Were Here (2021) by Jodi Picoult.

    Women's fiction: examples

    This section will look into the authors and some of their key works in the women's fiction genre.

    Women's fiction authors

    Some influential authors of works of women's fiction include Jane Austen, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Margaret Atwood.

    Jane Austen

    Jane Austen is one of the most prominent writers to emerge from the nineteenth century. Her books are written from the perspective of the female lead. They touch upon the issues of marriage and social status in the nineteenth century and the interpersonal relationships of the female protagonist with her family, friends, and acquaintances.

    Works by Jane Austen include Pride and Prejudice (1813), Sense and Sensibility (1811), and Mansfield Park (1814).

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Adichie is a Nigerian author who writes works of short and long fiction and non-fiction. In her fictional works, Adichie offers multiple perspectives on contemporary social issues faced by the people of Nigeria.

    Among her works of women's fiction are the novels Americanah (2013) and Purple Hibiscus (2003).

    Taylor Jenkins Reid

    Reid is one of the most prominent contemporary women's fiction authors to emerge in the previous decade. Her works have been received favourably by readers, included in Reese Witherspoon's book club, and adapted for the small screen.

    Women's fiction authored by Taylor Jenkins Reid includes Daisy Jones and the Six (2019), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017), and Malibu Rising (2021).

    Margaret Atwood

    Atwood is a Canadian writer, poet, and critic who has written numerous works featuring strong female protagonists and has won multiple accolades for her writing.

    Margaret Atwood's works of women's fiction include Alias Grace (1996) and The Handmaid's Tale (1985).

    Women's fiction books

    Some notable works of women's fiction include the following:

    My Sister's Keeper (2004) by Jodi Picoult

    Jodi Picoult is a prominent author of women's fiction. Her works feature female protagonists that must overcome obstacles and come into their own as they assert their rights and claim their identity. This is also a central theme in Picoult's novel, My Sister's Keeper.

    In the novel, Anna is a teenager who has undergone numerous medical procedures for her sister, Kate, who suffers from a chronic illness. Anna was conceived because she would be a bone marrow match for Kate and the key to Kate's survival. However, tired of being defined by her sister's existence, Anna takes a drastic decision that will impact the lives of those around her and irrevocably transform her relationship with her family.

    Bridget Jones' Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding

    Helen Fielding's fictional protagonist, Bridget Jones, holds excellent appeal to female readers worldwide. The Bridget Jones series by Fielding is adapted to the big screen starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant. It is often seen as a modern-day retelling of Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813).

    Bridget Jones' Diary centres on a 30-something-year-old single woman who is on a mission of self-improvement that involves diets, socialising, and chronicling her day-to-day interactions so that she may finally be her best self.

    The Time Traveler's Wife (2003) by Audrey Niffenegger

    The Time Traveler's Wife is a work of women's fiction that also overlaps with the genres of science fiction and romance. In the novel, we learn of the two protagonists, Clare and Henry. They are deeply in love and have a turbulent marriage because of Henry's Chrono-Displacement Disorder. As a result of this disorder, Henry often vanishes without preamble and appears years in the past or the future. The novel centres on Clare and Henry's attempt to lead an everyday life while having no control over Henry's disorder.

    Women's fiction today

    Today, women's fiction continues to be a trendy and widely read genre. It particularly appeals to female readers as they relate to the themes and characters presented in works of women's fiction.

    Women's fiction - Key takeaways

    • Women's fiction refers to fictional narratives that feature female characters and their struggles, eventually leading to their personal growth.
    • Contemporary women's fiction refers to women's fiction set at the same time it is written.
    • Women's fiction is different from women's writing, but they are not mutually exclusive.
    • Prominent authors of women's fiction include Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
    • Notable books of women's fiction include The Time Traveler's Wife (2003), Bridget Jones' Diary (1996), and My Sister's Keeper (2004).
    Frequently Asked Questions about Women's fiction

    How to write women's fiction?

    Women's fiction features strong female protagonists and their struggles. It is important to flesh out your main characters and the conflict they face. It is also important that the conflicts they resolve and the obstacles they overcome lead to personal growth.

    What is women's fiction?

    The term 'women's fiction' is used to label fictional narratives centred on women and their struggles, which eventually lead to their personal growth.

    What is the women's fiction genre?

    Women's fiction is typically used in the book trade as a genre fiction category. Women's fiction refers to fictional narratives that feature female characters and their struggles, eventually leading to their personal growth.

    What are the characteristics of women's fiction?

    Features of women's fiction include a strong female protagonist on whom the story is centred. The protagonist must face conflict, which when resolved leads to personal growth. The narrative usually highlights the relationships of the female protagonist with her characters and her place or identity in contemporary society.

    What is the difference between chick lit and women's fiction?

    Women's fiction refers to fictional narratives that feature female characters and their struggles, eventually leading to their personal growth. Chick-lit is a term that is no longer in use because of its intrinsic sexism. Chick-lit was used to identify books targetted at young female readers and typically involved the female protagonist falling in love and uniting with the one they love at the end.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following works of women's fiction is adapted to film?

    True or false: A work of women's fiction must have a female protagonist

    True or false: a work of women's fiction must be written by a female author

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