Happy International Women’s Day! As today is an opportunity to celebrate all that is great about women and to campaign for further reform, we decided to include a top ten of books with strong female characters.
Though these characters differ in many ways, they are all brave and courageous and drive a really good narrative which is what you want from a great read. All of the books below link to e-book editions but you can easily change your preference if you would prefer a paperback version. In no particular order…
One – Elizabeth Bennet
Elizabeth Bennet is a fantastic example of a strong female character who knows what she wants and is not overly impressed by riches or status. Though she is not infallible, her strength inspires and intrigues Mr Darcy as he has never met a woman like her.
Two – Kate Moore
Kate Moore is an incredibly strong CIA agent who regularly gets into danger at every turn but never seems to be very afraid even though the stakes are raised at every turn. Her inspirational strength shines through in this thrilling read and her character is drawn very convincingly by male author Chris Pavone.
Three – Ruth Galloway
Forensic Archaeologist Ruth Galloway, lives with her daughter on the North Norfolk coast. She has a complicated love life to put it mildly but helps the police to investigative murders that happen in her area. The most refreshing thing about Ruth is that she is a size 16 (i.e. a normal sized UK woman!) which we don’t get to see a lot of in crime fiction. All of the Elly Griffiths Ruth books are great but my favourite is Dying Fall.
Four – Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser
Claire is the main character in the Outlander novels, of which we are anxiously awaiting the Series Two TV adaptation here in the UK in April. She is a feisty heroine who slips through time from the 1940s to eighteenth century Scotland. Although married to Frank in the present day, fearing she will never return she grows strongly attached to Jamie Fraser. Claire is always having to use her wits to survive, she is in an unfamiliar place and time so needs to be resourceful. I suggest beginning at the first Outlander novel and moving forward.
Five – Mary Yellan
Out of all the Daphne Du Maurier books that I have read, Jamaica Inn is my favourite. Mary Yellan is sent to live with her Aunt Patience and violent Uncle Joss Merlyn at Jamaica Inn on the Bodmin Moor. Mary is brave and courageous and knows that something strange is going on and wants to discover just what this is. A truly Gothic novel, very atmospheric in tone.
Six – V.I. Warshawswki
Victoria Iphegenia Warshawski is a Chicago Private Eye created by Sara Paretsky. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Vic is incredibly tough and not scared of fighting physically as she sets herself to solving cases of White Collar crime. Lots of the stories are great but for a more recent take on the character try 2012’s Breakdown.
Seven – Kambili Achike
Purple Hibiscus is the first of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s novels and is really a coming of age tale in Nigeria set against turbulent times. We see the world through the eyes of Kambili who us a fifteen year old girl growing up in a religiously conservative family. Her father is a tyrant but luckily she is able to grow and mature as a character due to the influence of her considerate Aunty Ifeoma.
Eight – Diana Bishop
In the All Souls Trilogy’s first book A Discovery of Witches, Diana Bishop is another courageous female character that uses her brain to get what she wants. Diana is a Professor of the History of Alchemy who is also able to use magic and becomes entangled in a relationship with charismatic vampire Matthew Clairmont.
Nine – Temperence Brennan
Forensic Anthropologist Tempe Brennan is a great character who shows resourcefulness, intelligence and strength. Called on to solve crimes in two jurisdictions and countries (Quebec and North Carolina) Tempe is determined to bring justice for her victims who may have experienced a dreadful death. Also the complications of a certain Quebecois detective Andrew Ryan add some spice to the stories! Again all of the novels in the series are excellent but one of my favourites is Grave Secrets.
Ten – Sookie Stackhouse
Sookie Stackhouse is the lead character in the True Blood series of novels by Charlaine Harris. These stories set in the Louisianan town of Bon Temps feature many supernatural characters including vampires, werewolves and fairies. Vampires have come out of the closet due to a synthetic blood drink that has been developed by a Japanese company allowing them in theory to live safely amongst humans. Sookie is a strong character as she has always been seen as ‘different’ as she can read others thoughts so people in her small town are quite freaked out by her. The first book is a murder mystery set against a paranoid population who feel that a vampire is the killer.
Plus – Mary Shelley (not a character!)
Though this is an author not a character I really wanted to include the fabulous author Mary Shelley who wrote the draft of Frankenstein at the incredible age of nineteen! I have been lucky enough to see the manuscript of this work in 2014 The Gothic Exhibition at The British Library more of which you can read about in this post here
This incomparable Gothic tale is a great read, make sure you check out the 1818 text and not the later one!