This will be my third blog on Women’s fiction. (Blog #7: Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Blog #15: More Girls Fun) It is my genre, after all! And it is a large one; the more I explore, the more writers I find to enjoy, admire, and be inspired by.
Elin Hildebrand’s novel The Rumor was the first (of her over 20 books) that I have read. I’m not sure why it took me so long to find my way to her novels, but I’m thrilled that I finally did. I can see why she is called the “queen of the summer novel.” The Rumor was so much fun and also very real. It was a great reminder that life is messy, and that while we may get our happy ending it might not be the one we thought we wanted!
I followed The Rumor with The Matchmaker, which I liked, even when I didn’t. To be fair, it wasn’t (spoiler alert) the light Hildebrand beach read that I expected. It is a sad but real story that faces hard truths including the protagonist’s illness and death. But life goes on, often in surprising and positive ways, for those left behind. It’s emotional, poignant, and ultimately hopeful even when all hope is gone.
Hildebrand is an inspiration to me as a writer, writing one to two books a year. I aspire to be that prolific! But I am also inspired by her personal story of going through breast cancer surgery while writing The Rumor. She continued to write, care for her children, and travel for speaking engagements. It speaks to both my need to write no matter what else is going on in my life as well as the escape and rejuvenation that I feel when writing.
Another author that I’ve discovered since starting this blog is Susie Orman Schnall. I first read her novel On Grace, with the universal themes of marriage, friendship, and identity that were very similar to those in my first novel, Better Than This. Orman Schnall’s protagonist, Grace, was very relatable. At a time when she is struggling with discontent in her marriage, she reconnects with and old boyfriend and is reminded of the girl she was back then. Who among us hasn’t felt the pull of our younger selves and past loves when life disappoints us and things get tough? And is that pull necessarily a bad thing, or does it help us find our way back to a more authentic, honest, and content self?
As soon as I finished On Grace, I ordered Orman Schnall’s next book, The Balance Project. Much as she did in On Grace, Orman Schnall brought the protagonist’s inner struggles into the light of day where I found myself easily relating and empathizing with her. Fears, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, and questionable decisions yielded growth and ultimately a happy ending. But not without some twists and turns that kept me fully engaged. I appreciated the theme of “finding balance vs. having it all” and felt compassion for both of the main female characters, Lucy and Katherine.
In my last post, Blog #17: More About Books, I wrote about discovering Jenny Colgan based on the title of one of her books, The Bookshop on the Corner, which is also about a woman following her heart and coming into her own. The protagonist, Nina, loses her job as a librarian in Birmingham, relocates to Scotland, and begins a new life for herself by buying an old van and transforming it into a mobile bookshop. It was a charming, heartwarming read.
Kerry Fisher is another author now on my “to read” list. I really enjoyed and appreciated her novel, The Silent Wife. It is the story of the second wives of two Italian brothers and all the baggage that entails, not the least of which is an overbearing and critical mother-in law. But it was also an honest and insightful portrayal of how confusing and pervasive self-doubt and self-blame can be in an abusive relationship. It sheds compassionate light on the difficulty that abused women have reaching out for help and had several parallels to my first novel, Better Than This.
Women’s fiction often allows us to see our lives reflected in the protagonist’s story. Have you ever read a book that felt like it was telling your story?