We should all be feminists. This is a simple truth. Being an active feminist, as well as an anti-racist and anti-queerphobic, is how we make a society to be proud of.
Regardless of who you are and what gender you are, one of the best ways to be a better feminist is to read feminist novels.
Fiction has a unique effect, greater than that of nonfiction: it builds and strengthens our capacity for empathy.
And it’s empathy that the world needs a lot more of right now. So, in order to help you be the best feminist you can be, read as many good feminist novels as possible.
Must-Read Feminist Novels
This growing list of feminist novels is intersectional. You’ll find here books by authors of different races, cultures, and backgrounds.
Many of these books were written in Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and more — then translated into English.
Some of these books were also written by transgender women like myself. If we aren’t being truly intersectional, we aren’t being true feminists.
This is a positive list of great feminist novels by great feminist authors from all around the world. Enjoy.
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
Translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd
Breasts and Eggs is one of the best Japanese books of modern times, and an absolute masterpiece of feminist fiction.
While it was originally written as a novella, before a longer sequel was then written, the English translation of Breasts and Eggs includes both books, making for a sizeable read.
Breasts and Eggs follows the story of Nastsuko, an Osaka-born writer living in Tokyo who has spent her adult life trying to see her works get published.
The first book focuses on a short visit by Natsuko’s more extroverted sister and that sister’s daughter. The daughter has fallen mute and her mother is in Tokyo for breast implants.
We see the world from the perspectives of all three women, and they each have differing attitudes to womanhood and its place in society.
In the book’s second story, Natsuko has made it as an author but now dreams of being a mother, though she has no real wish for a partner to share her life with.
Both stories explore how womanhood is defined and how women can find happiness, contentment, and strength in a misogynistic modern world.
Breasts and Eggs is one of the great modern Japanese masterpieces; a thought-provoking and emboldening book that stands at the peak of contemporary feminist novels.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Legendary British author Bernardine Evaristo’s eighth novel, Girl, Woman, Other, has become an instant classic of Black British literature, and for good reason.
This century-spanning feminist novel is a contemporary epic that explores the concept of belonging in a country that has been having its own identity crisis for so many decades.
Leave it to Bernardine Evaristo to pen a topical masterpiece like this one; a novel exploring relationships of all types: between races, cultures, nations, genders, and generations.
Twelve stories about twelve different people, across a century of British history, all looking for someone, somewhere, or something to hold onto.
Arguably one of the very best British novels of today, Girl, Woman, Other speaks to the country’s zeitgeist in an honest, critical, and considered way.
And, in order to pull that off, it must speak clearly and honestly about divides across race and gender, which it does with strength and nuance.
A true masterpiece, and one of the finest feminist novels you’re ever likely to read.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
While it wouldn’t be a list of the best feminist novels without the inclusion of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale, there’s also nothing left to say about this book that hasn’t already been said.
Published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale is a bleak look into the USA’s future; a time in which women have been reduced to their physical properties.
After fertility rates dropped to the point that they threaten human extinction, the US decided to take those few men who are still fertile and make them powerful.
And it took fertile women and turned them into sexual slaves living in big houses with those men and their faithful wives.
Now known as Gilead, the US is a military dictatorship controlled by traditional Biblical ideals which strip women of all rights and privileges.
It’s a bleak novel, but arguably the most influential of all the feminist novels ever written.
Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi
Translated from the Japanese by Lucy North and David Boyd
Diary of a Void is a biting, sarcastic, witty, and dark short novel about the ways in which society’s treatment of women depends on their situation and what gives them value.
Our protagonist, Shibata, is a twenty-something office worker who, by virtue of being the only woman in her office, is treated like a dog’s body who must fetch coffee for the men.
Driven to breaking point, she one day lies and says she can’t do this anymore because she’s pregnant (which, in reality, she isn’t).
However, committed to this new lie, Shibata starts noticing her life improve. Men treat her with more kindness; she is given permission to gain weight and look after herself.
In reality, nobody wants her to look after herself, but rather the baby. This novel reminds us that society sees cis women as vessels for carrying the future, rather than part of the present.
Shibata makes new friends, joins a yoga class, and spoils herself because she suddenly feels worthy of something; accepted and useful and given a reasonable amount of respect.
Written and translated with humour, Diary of a Void is a Japanese novel with teeth and claws, and one of the most bitingly satirical feminist novels you’ll ever read.
Strega by Johanne Lykke Holm
Translated from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel
Strega is a Swedish feminist novel that defies genre. Refusing to be boxed in, this short novel is part gothic, part horror, part thriller. Most importantly, it’s a biting exploration of the cost of womanhood.
Our protagonist, Rafa, is at the intersection between girlhood and adulthood, and she is spending a season working at a remote hotel in the mountains, beside a lake and small town: the titular Strega.
For the novel’s first half, Rafa befriends the other eight girls, particularly one girl named Alba. The nine of them learn their roles, bond, learn the hotel and its staff, and wait for the guests to arrive.
Weeks go by and there are still no guests. The town and hotel take on personalities of their own, and paranoia starts to grow. At the novel’s midpoint, however, a large number of guests arrive and the hotel becomes a party.
It is during this short and festive period that one of our girls goes missing, presumed dead, and her death brings with it the haunting and sobering realisation of what the world offers women: fear.
Strega is a powerful gothic horror thriller hybrid that reminds us of the power of men, of capitalism, of isolation, of rules and regulations, to instil fear and paranoia into women.
Violets by Kyung-sook Shin
Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur
Kyung-sook Shin is one of South Korea’s most beloved and revered authors. One read of her angry feminist novel Violets and it’s easy to see why that’s the case.
This novel is a story about female friendships in the modern day, and about the insidious, subtle, near-invisible ways in which men abuse women on a daily basis.
One of the most impactful and changing feminist novels of the past few years, Violets begins with its protagonist, San, as a young girl in 1970.
San was born and raised in a small rural village and, growing up, was a lonely social outsider.
In the book’s first chapter, San shares a moment of tender intimacy with her best friend. For San, this is an awakening. For her friend, it is frightening and wrong.
As an adult in Seoul, San takes a job as a florist. There she develops a sweet friendship with her coworker, who soon moves in with her. But San is also at the whim of men.
She learns how men violate the spaces and bodies of women on a daily basis, in a way that seems almost invisible.
Violets is a smart feminist novel that has the power to reshape how we all see the social dynamics at play between men and women.
The physical and verbal weapons softly used by men to scare, suppress, and intimidate the women in their lives. It’s a novel that leaves a mark, but also a tender and beautiful narrative.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Written by genius American author Octavia E. Butler, Kindred is a masterpiece of science fiction.
Kindred is a novel which explores the evolution of race and gender relations across American history.
Originally published in 1979 and set in 1976, Kindred follows a Black writer named Dana who finds herself inexplicably tethered through time to a white boy living on a 1815 Maryland plantation.
The white boy is Rufus, an ancestor of Dana’s who will father a child with one of his family’s slaves, and Dana is now caught in a loop: any time Rufus’ life is threatened, she is pulled back to save him.
Similarly, if she is put in harm’s way while in the past, she is sent back to 1976. On her third journey back to 1815, her white husband is dragged back with her.
Being a Black woman married to a white man, Dana is assumed a slave, and Kevin her owner. Kindred is a sci-fi novel about cruelty and compassion, about the importance of education and empathy.
A true masterpiece of feminist science fiction by one of the US’s most important literary voices, Kindred is an invaluable novel about the dynamics of race and gender, and the ways in which they are stitched into American history, culture, and values.
Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-ju
Translated from the Korean by Jamie Chang
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 can be understood as the novelisation of the lived experiences of every ordinary Korean woman for the past forty years.
Our protagonist is not a single woman, but rather a representation of the ordinary and expected experiences of your average woman in modern-day South Korea.
The novel traces the life of a woman from early childhood to marriage and, eventually, motherhood.
Even her name, Kim Ji-young, was chosen because it is a generic and common name in Korea.
We begin with Kim Ji-young being given an appointment with a psychiatrist in 2016 after she has developed a disturbing condition: she impersonates the voices and personalities of the women in her life, both alive and dead.
Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 is a book that brings to light the everyday misogyny, sexism, ignorance, aggression, bias, and abuse (both active and passive) that women in South Korea (and, of course, the world over) suffer and do their best to survive in this modern world.
To really get the most out of Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, one of the most powerful feminist novels ever written, it’s important to first understand the novel’s purpose.
It is not a story with a view to entertaining us. It is a book that enlightens, and encourages anger in, its readers.
Kim Jiyoung is not a character to form a bond with. She is every abuse victim.
She is every woman who has encountered sexism at home, at school, in the workplace, and on the street, and who perhaps never even realised it.
There is feminist rage stitched into every line of this incredible Korean book; a must-read amongst modern feminist novels.
The Hierarchies by Ros Anderson
With her indie sci-fi novel The Hierarchies, Ros Anderson has established herself as a vital voice amongst modern feminist authors.
This is a contemporary sci-fi novel that tackles our relationships to female bodies, to sex work, and so much more.
Our protagonist, Sylv.ie, is a sex robot. She exists to simply please the man who owns her.
Sylv.ie must stay upstairs, sit idle, study via the Internet, and wait for her husband to come to her with his needs.
When she finds a coded diary from her past self, a self she no longer remembers, she learns that she has already attempted to escape once and had her memory wiped.
And so Sylv.ie must try to escape once again, using her past self’s notes as guidance.
The Hierarchies is a very nuanced and captivating exploration of consciousness, learning, personal growth, freedom, and purpose.
One fresh and fascinating aspect of the novel is the inclusion of an angry group which call themselves “bio women” who protest the existence of female sex robots.
These women are allegorical of conservative bigots who look down their noses at transgender women and sex workers, and their inclusion makes this one of the most bold and dynamic feminist sci-fi books you’ll ever read.
True feminist fiction should tackle the growing and dangerous conservative attitudes towards trans women and sex workers.
This novel does so brilliantly, making it one of the most punk and vital feminist novels of recent years.
Orpheus Builds A Girl by Heather Parry
Heather Parry’s debut novel, Orpheus Builds A Girl demonstrates the power of the gothic genre as a vehicle for examining and criticising the power dynamics between men and women.
Based on a true story, Orpheus Builds A Girl follows the lives of a German doctor who fled to Florida after World War II, and a Cuban family who did the same.
Our doctor, Wilhelm von Tore, has recorded his life story for us: a story which paints him as a romantic hero.
Fixing this false narrative is Gabriela, sister of the sick girl whom Von Tore took advantage of and defiled.
We shift back and forth between his narrative and hers, his psychopathic behaviour and her demands to set the record straight on this monstrous man.
Von Tore’s narrative, which he has been able to see published, presents his choices as those of a true romantic and a good man.
Gabriela’s story, reduced to unpublished scrawlings in the margins, shows us the truth of it, the pain that patriarchy inflicts, and how easy it is for men to write themselves as the heroes.
Reminiscent of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with a villainous protagonist that matches the legendary Victor Frankenstein in every way, this is a feminist gothic novel for the modern day.
A true feminist masterpiece amongst gothic novels and one of the finest examples of the genre you’ll ever read, especially amongst punk feminist novels.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula Le Guin was an author who did so much for sci-fi and fantasy; an incredible woman of great moral integrity. She loved art, and felt strongly about giving voices to the voiceless.
The Left Hand of Darkness is a sci-fi novel which follows protagonist Genly Ai, an envoy from Earth who travels to a strange world called Gethen.
Ai hopes that Gethen will join the confederation of planets, which her home planet of Earth is a part of.
Our protagonist, however, quickly becomes shaken and surprised by the fact that Gethen’s population are “ambisexual”, which here means they have no fixed gender.
This concept exemplifies the novel’s core theme of exploring ideas surrounding sex and gender, and how we allow them to impact modern society.
Ai has arrived on a planet entirely unburdened by the societal segregation of gendered groups, a world of Le Guin’s own imagination.
The Left Hand of Darkness has touched many readers on a deep emotional level, as it asks questions about the impact of gendered society and how gender divides work to isolate us as groups and as individuals.
It’s also, quite simply, an exceptional piece of science fiction; a blend of Star Treke-sque space opera and speculative, philosophical sci-fi, making it one of the best feminist novels (and sci-fi novels) ever written.
Love Me Tender by Constance Debré
Translated from the French by Holly James
Love Me Tender is a short but powerful feminist French novel inspired by the author’s own life.
Constance is forty-seven, and three years earlier — after twenty years of marriage and raising a child — she realised she was gay, and so she left her husband to go live her truth.
She lives in a studio flat in Paris, and she spends her days getting tattoos, going swimming, reading in cafes, sleeping with women, and trying to write a book.
But her bitter and homophobic former husband is making her life difficult by weaponising their eight-year-old son against her.
This is a sapphic French novel about individualism versus family; about what we owe ourselves and each other, about hedonism and truth and personal justice.
Constance can be viewed as a tragic hero, trying to understand herself in her middle age, fighting back against a homophobic husband and system, and trying to re-win the love of her own child.
She can also be viewed as an inspiration, living her life how she sees fit and enjoying it as best she can.
But some readers might also see her as selfish, putting herself before her son and ruining a functioning family unit in order to abandon them and live her own independent life.
Love Me Tender is a punk feminist novel that packs a punch and leaves a mark.
Second Place by Rachel Cusk
Blending the poetic and aesthetic stylings of Virginia Woolf with the thematic density of Kazuo Ishiguro, Rachel Cusk’s Second Place is a stunning exploration of one woman’s place in her own world.
Our protagonist, M, once fell in love with the paintings of a man known only as L. Years later, M lives with her husband Tony on a remote and marshy patch of English coastland.
Now that their daughter is at university in Germany, and they have a “second place” on their land where guests can stay, M and Tony invite this great painter to stay with them and paint the local landscape.
L brings along a young woman, and the four spend several months in intimate tension as M gets to know her hero and begins to come unstuck.
M second-guesses her life, comes to see herself as something else. Or rather, she examines herself closely for the first time and doesn’t love what she sees.
For much of the novel, we come to know M through her opinions of others, through her examination of the world around her; but we learn almost nothing about M herself.
Second Place has us considering what a person or a personality is; how we define ourselves, compare ourselves to others, fit into the world, find our place in it, take up space in it, especially as women.
Second Place is one of the more subtly feminist novels you’re likely to read, but it is all the more impactful and beautiful for that subtlety.
Now She is Witch by Kirsty Logan
Scottish author Kirsty Logan has gifted us a raw and powerful feminist novel set against a backdrop of mediaeval religious cruelty and brutal misogyny.
When Lux returns to her isolated home from the abusive religious sanctuary she had been sent away to, she finds her home burned and her mother killed.
Lux and her mother lived on the edge of society as cunning women, healers, all but shunned by regular folk, and now they had gone so far as to murder her mother.
Lux is then approached by Else, a woman with a singular mission: journey to a northern stronghold and poison its lord in an act of revenge. Lux agrees to go with Else, seeing no other option open to her.
As we journey with Lux and Else, we learn their backstories; we hear stories of witches; we meet travelling players.
Else is a mystery to Lux, enigmatic and solitary, but she leads them closer to the stronghold and their goal of infiltrating it in order to murder a man who surely deserves it.
Now She Is Witch pulls no punches. It is an angry feminist novel that bites back against religious persecution and patriarchal oppression.
Clytemnestra by Constanza Casati
There are many wonderful feminist retellings of Greek Mythology out there, but Clytemnestra is arguably the best of the bunch.
Clytemnestra is a dark, angry, intimate novel that follows the life of the titular Clytemnestra, a Spartan princess who is known for being the wife and murderer of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae.
Clytemnestra begins with our protagonist’s youth, growing up alongside her sister Helen, falling in love with a decent man, and eventually having his son.
But we know that, eventually, she will be married to the bloodthirsty tyrant king Agamemnon; her sister Helen will marry his brother and be stolen to Troy by Paris, thus beginning the Trojan War.
This masterpiece of a feminist novel covers all of this and more, sparing none of the tragedy that befalls our protagonist.
We watch her become abused, traumatised, and twisted into a vengeful, venomous queen.
We clench our fists in hope that she will be vindicated, find her revenge, spill the blood that deserves to be spilled.
A tense, angry feminist masterpiece of a novel, Clytemnestra is a must-read for all fans of Greek Mythology.
The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara
Translated from the Spanish by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre
In The Adventures of China Iron, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara has created a feminist novel that is wonderfully daring and critical – one that is both a retelling of, and a companion to, the classic epic poem El Gaucho Martín Fierro.
More importantly, The Adventures of China Iron is a joyously hilarious and thrilling story of sexual discovery and personal freedom.
The Adventures of China Iron is a proudly feminist Argentinian novel that, rather than getting angry, laughs in the face of the rigid, conservative, patriarchal status quo.
It’s a liberal tale that encourages us, through its characters’ actions, to not only embrace change but to make change through the simple act of removing one’s fetters and seeking love in all its forms.
It’s a transformative sapphic adventure, wholly romantic and sublime, at times even supernatural in its message of discovery – both of the self and of the mysterious world.
Though it is certainly not a novel that ever runs away with its own romantic notions of hedonistic freedom, it is one that celebrates womanhood, sapphic love, and a pair of lives that reject patriarchal oppression.
Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes
Stone Blind shows Natalie Haynes taking control of the narrative around monsters, and showing us how a monster is nothing more than what a man tells us it is.
This feminist Greek tragedy is the story of Medusa and her sisters, the gorgons. It is the story of her birth, abandonment, and the care with which she is raised by her sisters.
It is also the story of Perseus, the hapless and reckless boy who is sent on a quest to kill a gorgon, as well as that of the goddess Athena, who curses Medusa out of spite and jealousy and nothing more.
Stone Blind is an angry feminist book written by someone at her wits end with the patriarchy and the narratives it spins around women and things that are not themselves patriarchal.
Multi-layered, written from various perspectives, and bubbling over with rage, Stone Blind is one of the most imaginative feminist novels of recent years.
After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz
After Sappho is the novelisation of a web of interconnected lives: queer women from around the turn of the 20th Century who pushed feminism and queer experiences into the limelight.
This is one of the most kind, hopeful, and inspiring feminist novels you could ever hope to read and enjoy.
We begin in Italy before tracing multiple threads across France, England, Ireland, and across to the US. The women here were all real: artists, writers, actors, philosophers, and travellers.
Some you will be familiar with; others you won’t. All of them were inspired by Sappho, and in turn inspired one another to move, act, shake the world, and turn the status quo on its head.
These are women who didn’t conform to gender roles and expectations, who loved other women, who spoke out and inspired the women and queer people around them.
The novel is told out of order, in small vignettes that traces these lives over and again; we move through time and across borders to paint a picture of change and growth and love. Beautiful, genius, and perfect.
Peach Pit by Molly Llewellyn & Kristel Buckley (Editors)
While not actually a novel, but rather an anthology collection, Peach Pit is nevertheless an essential work of feminist literature that everyone should read.
As its tagline says, Peach Pit is a collection of sixteen stories about “unsavory” women, and the sixteen authors who each contributed one story to this book represent a broad spectrum of female experiences.
Beloved modern authors like Lauren Groff, Aliya Whiteley, Deesha Philyaw, Alison Rumfitt, K-Ming Chang, and more have all brought their A-game to deliver us a captivating collection of women’s wrongs.
Every story in this collection centres around an unlikeable protagonist; a woman who is vengeful, criminal, dangerous, deadly, or some other flavour of unsavory.
Peach Pit is an intersectional collection, offering stories from Black, white, and Asian perspectives, as well as those of cis and trans women, straight and gay women.
You’ll find stories of surrealism, horror, and science fiction, as well as literary tragedies and tales of crime and debauchery.
This book is a celebration of women’s wrongs, rather than women’s rights, and is one of the best feminist books to have been published in recent years.
Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin
Manhunt is a post-apocalyptic novel that’s not for the faint of heart, written by one of the most punk and daring transgender authors working today.
In Manhunt, a disease has ravaged humanity and reduced the US to a wasteland, and it’s a disease that specifically affects testosterone.
This means that most women, cis and trans alike, as well as some trans men, are safe from the virus.
Most cis men have been reduced to cannibalistic zombie-like creatures that sexually assault and kill on sight. They are toxic masculinity taken to its most frightening degree.
These hungry zombies are how many of us see toxic men already; they are allegorical of the frightening and dangerous men of this world.
But the other threat in Manhunt is a cult of murderous humans. These are proud and powerful TERFs who are rounding up the trans women of this apocalyptic world.
Once again, this feels like the endgame for the bigotry that is transphobia, and our protagonists are two trans women trying to stay alive as they are hunted from two different sides.
This fantastic feminist horror novel shows toxic masculinity for what it really is: braindead brutalism.
But it’s also one that shows us where the road of transphobia will eventually lead. A truly intersectional feminist novel for the ages.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
There is no writer of Japanese feminist fiction like Natsuo Kirino, and Out is her most ferocious, unrestrained novel.
Out follows the story of a group of women who all work a dead-end job in a bento factory, exhausted by also having to be mothers and wives to dreadful, abusive husbands.
When one of our protagonists snaps and murders her husband with his own belt, she turns to her fellow factory worker for help with covering her tracks.
Soon enough they will need to fend off not only the police but the local yakuza crime family.
Out is an angry, exhilarating Japanese crime novel and a masterpiece of Japanese feminist literature.
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
When we think of Pompeii, most of us think of its destruction by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but here in The Wolf Den, Elodie Harper presents us with the Pompeii that was.
This is a novel that focusses on the people on the ground, the ordinary and the overlooked.
Specifically, The Wolf Den tells the story of a brothel and a woman named Amara, sold after the death of her beloved father.
This is a story of one woman’s survival; Amara uses her own wits, wiles, and strengths to live against the odds.
The Wolf Den is a staggeringly successful piece of feminist historical fiction that explores the unique strengths of a woman, rather than painting her as strong by the archetypal male standards and frameworks.
Another fantastic piece of feminist fiction that humanises sex workers, making them not only protagonists but resilient and powerful heroes facing down the patriarchy.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
The Pisces is a frantically fun novel full of extremely dark and shocking humour by Jewish American author Melissa Broder.
Our protagonist, Lucy, has been living in Phoenix AZ while working on her PhD. Newly single, she offers to look after her sister’s dog while she’s away.
And so, while spending a summer on Venice Beach, Lucy goes on dates and gets some therapy.
But she also meets and has sex with a merman.
Lucy is a horribly unlikeable protagonist; selfish to the point of narcissism. She’s crass, careless, and confused.
Lucy has little love or care for the people or the things around her; she rejects responsibility and the results are horrifying.
This is a novel that reminds us how women are human; women can be horrible, abusive, uncaring creatures.
The humanising of a woman protagonist as unlikeable is absolutely liberating and vital within the literary canon.
This is what make The Pisces such a fantastic feminist novel, one that revels in the loud presence of the awful woman.
The Mercies by Kiran Milwood Hargrave
Kiran Milwood Hargrave is one of the most exciting young authors of the UK today and The Mercies was her first novel for adults.
Inspired by true events, The Mercies is set in 1617 Norway — specifically the island of Vardo.
The book begins with a freak winter storm taking the lives of every man from the island community (all fishermen, all at sea when the storm hits.
Vardo is now an island of women.
Soon enough, however, a man of God arrives from Scotland to “take control”. He has brought with him his wife, a woman inspired when she finds a community devoid of men.
The Mercies is written with astonishing prose. A truly gorgeous feminist gothic novel from beginning to end. It is the perfect length, expertly paced, utterly flawless in its writing and atmosphere.
A sternly feminist piece of historical fiction and a true gem.
Magma by Thora Hjorleifsdottir
Translated from the Icelandic by Meg Matich
Magma is the debut novel by Icelandic poet Thora Hjörleifsdóttir: a 200-page feminist novel written in small, diary-like vignettes which record the life of a young woman named Lilja.
Lilja has entered into a new relationship with a quietly toxic and emotionally manipulative man who remains unnamed, and who becomes something of a gothic monster as the book progresses.
Her partner represents not only the toxic and gaslighting men of the world, but all toxic friends and partners that we have suffered with throughout our lives, regardless of gender or sexuality.
Each tiny chapter of Magma jumps forward a little, recording a new moment or stage in their relationship, as Lilja becomes unable to leave, feeling strangely attached to him and convinced that she is in love.
All the while, he controls her, gaslights her, and builds a shell of paranoia around her until she feels cocooned, trapped, lost, and dependent. It’s dark, difficult, and too familiar for many of us.
Magma is a mesmerising work of feminist fiction that warns us all against the power and tactics used by toxic people to remove our autonomy and grind us down.
One of the best feminist novels you’ll ever read, Magma is an essential and relatable, if heartbreaking read.
The Collection by Nina Leger
Translated from the French by Laura Francis
In The Collection, protagonist Jeanne collects and mentally catalogues the images of men’s penises. She does this by hooking up with men in hotel rooms.
She gives no rhyme or reason for her habit. Or is it a hobby? An obsession? Even that much is unclear. It is merely her personal collection.
For 160 pages of The Collection we follow Jeanne’s routine, all of which is centred around sex, sexual organs, and the sexualising of everything around her. But to what end?
As the story builds, we begin to see Jeanne as more than just a person with a fetish or a desire. Jeanne represents much more than that.
She represents the source of all of our guilt and shame; she can be found in those moments where we are too afraid to admit our kinks to our partners.
The book taunts and teases us, and it’s at this point that its powerful feminist theme is placed boldly on display: there must be something wrong with Jeanne, mustn’t there?
She must be the butt of a joke, the victim of abuse or trauma, a woman with a vendetta. She can’t just be her, can she?
The Collection is as much a protest as it is a story. As a protest, it shines a light on the weak and tired tropes of heroines in literature.
It demands an apology from the writers who have normalised hysteria in women, wounded and victimised women, strange and slutty women, and women who must be ashamed and apologetic for their lives and their choices.
The Collection highlights the hypocrisy in the difference between men’s and women’s accepted attitudes towards sex and kink.
Jeanne is a woman unperturbed and unbound by Western societal sexual expectations of women, a woman acting as she likes while causing no harm to anyone.
The fact that she seems freakish is something that reveals our own internalised sexism.
A wildly smart and searing book, The Collections is one of the boldest feminist novels ever written.
So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan
Claire Keegan is an acclaimed Irish author of short fiction, and here she has masterfully crafted a perfect feminist story that can be enjoyed in under an hour.
Although “enjoyed” might not be the right word; this is a tale of anger and anguish told from the perspective of a naive middle-aged man who exemplifies one of the sadder aspects of patriarchy: ignorance.
Our protagonist is Cathal, and the novel opens on him taking in the city of Dublin from his office window, before fudging a few tasks and then eventually being sent home early by his boss.
As he takes the bus home to his rural house outside the city, he muses on a recent relationship with a French woman named Sabine.
Through flashbacks, we learn about this relationship: how it began, the bumps it hit along the road, and how it ended.
In under fifty pages, we are presented with a stunningly written tale of love and loss, as our protagonist ruminates on the mistakes he made and what they cost him.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
This angry feminist novel retells Homer’s The Iliad from the perspective of ordinary people — women — not the male heroes we are forced to learn about again and again.
The Silence of the Girls retells the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of Briseis — queen turned captive turned prize for Achilles as a spoil of war.
Pat Barker has a knack for taking eras and stories that typically focus on the masculine and the heroic, and putting the focus instead on the tragedy of it all.
She did it with Regeneration and World War I, and she’s done it here with The Silence of the Girls.
This is one of the most powerful books about Greek mythology you’re ever likely to read; a novel that highlights the darkest, most desperate, most deplorable acts of warfare.
A feminist retelling of the highest calibre.
Dead Girls by Selva Almada
Translated from the Spanish by Annie McDermott
Argentinian feminist author Selva Almada’s Dead Girls is a piece of “journalistic fiction”, narrated by Almada herself, which chronicles the lives and deaths of three young women who were brutally murdered in 1980s Argentina.
Dead Girls is an invitation to share in Almada’s anger.
The book takes three cases of femicide, all different but sharing specific traits (the sex of the victim, the country in which it happened, the economic situation of the victim, their age group), and spends 150 pages dissecting the hows and whys of these grim events.
Much like after experiencing a personal tragedy, you’ll walk away from this book with a vivid memory of where you were, how you were feeling, and what the weather was like on the day that you read Dead Girls.
The change that will come about from reading Dead Girls should hopefully be a positive one: one that inspires each reader to fight for change within their own country’s gender politics.
As long as women like Andrea, Maria Luisa, and Sarita can be made victims of femicide, there is little fairness in our society.