Why Men Should Read Women-Centered Novels

The Secret Life of Bees movies main cast.

I have two daughters and my wife has four sisters, so I’ve heard plenty of conversations among women. But I’ve obviously never heard them speak when a male isn’t around, which is one of many reasons why women-centered novels written by female authors appeal to me. A person can learn a lot while “eavesdropping” on female characters interacting with each other, whether those fictional women are mostly feeling camaraderie or things are more fraught. 

Female-only interactions can of course be between friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, grandmothers and grandchildren, cousins, couples in same-gender relationships, co-workers, sports teammates, etc.

Not surprisingly, this post was partly inspired by novels I’ve recently read. One was Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees and the other was Joy Fielding’s Grand Avenue. Both very compelling books that are well worth the time.

Bees is narrated by 14-year-old Lily — a white girl who, with her household’s Black maid Rosaleen, leaves home in 1960s South Carolina to escape her abusive father and search for information about her late mother. They end up in the household of three Black sisters: wise/friendly beekeeper August, not-so-friendly teacher June, and emotionally sensitive May. The conversations of these five characters are something to behold — reflecting the bonds between females, racial dynamics, and more. Meanwhile, there’s the threat of Lily’s (bigoted) father looking for herโ€ฆ

It almost goes without saying that most women-centered novels feature men in some scenes, but they are scarce in many other scenes.

The Ohio-set Grand Avenue, which spans the late 1970s through the early 2000s, starts with an irresistible premise: four mothers who live on the street of the book’s title hit it off immediately while watching their young daughters play in a local park. The mutual loyalty of high-powered attorney Vicki, magazine editor Susan, former beauty queen Barbara, and homemaker Chris is a delight until the quartet’s many differences — as well as the vicissitudes of life (an abusive husband, a shocking murder, etc.) — put major stress on their four-way friendship.

Other women-written, women-centered novels that offer memorable, believable characters and meaningful female conversations and relationships include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network, Jennifer Ryan’s The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, and Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, to name just a few of many.

Any women-centered novels you’d like to discuss?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning โ€œMontclairvoyantโ€ local topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — in which both George Washington and Yogi Berra get comedic mentions — is here.

91 thoughts on “Why Men Should Read Women-Centered Novels

  1. Classics like Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott also serve your purpose of peeping into the lives and minds of women. They are classics as the feelings and situations portrayed there still feels relatable to a large extent. Feminists of today’s generation find the leading character in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet relatable and considers her to be one of earliest fictional feminist. Apart from such novels, we at Wordskraft have several blogs which are “for women by women” type. I am sure you would find them intriguing, do visit our site Wordskraft and let us know your thoughts on the blogs.
    #MyWordsKraft

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t believe I missed this post!
    I’m thrilled that you liked Grand Avenue. I think it’s Joy’s best book. Then, I think I like See Jane Run.
    I always enjoy your posts. This is because I do not consider myself an avid reader, yet I’ve always read some of the books you mention.

    You may notice that I liked from my Art Gowns blog, but am commenting from my GLAM blog (I have logged out about 10 times). I was locked out of Art Gowns for a day.
    I don’t know how this is happening. It’s a weird WP glitch, and I hope it goes away.
    I won’t see your reply to my comment, unless I come back here (which I will), or log out of Art Gowns, and back into GLAM. I tried that, and then that’s when I got locked out of Art Gowns.
    In 8 years this has never happened before.
    Okay that was windy.
    LOL
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read Toni Morrison’s “Sula” 40 years ago, and I think the book qualifies as an example of the woman-centered novel, because it is most of all the story of the relationship of two women, Sula and Nel, from childhood on.

    But, as it’s been 40 years, I have too little to add.

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    • Thank you, jhNY! Excellent mention! I read that early Toni Morrison novel maybe seven or eight (?) years ago, and I agree that it’s very women-centered — even as it has some significant male secondary characters.

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  4. Great post and yet another book I want to read. It’s fascinating that nananoyz didn’t imagine men reading her books – as if women centred books are shelved in a single sex ghetto.. In the UK, new graduates could find summer work script checking school exams. I’ve never forgotten one examiner’s comment .. .
    ‘ A very feminine response.
    The candidate was female. The writer whose work she was analysing – Jane Austen.

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    • Glad you liked the post, Esther!

      I definitely agree that virtually every novel can be enjoyed by women and men. Yet some books and some authors do get more readership from one gender or another.

      Quite a recollection re Jane Austen! I, for one, am a male fan of her work. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. “The Secret Life of Bees” had such a great impact on me when I read it years ago. I fell in love with the characters, especially August, and I wished I could go live with her and her sisters. I used to search out Christian and Catholic bookstores for a Black Madonna, which I never found but still look for today even though I became a confirmed non-believer. I was for a time, however, quite taken with the idea of the “sacred feminine” as espoused by Kidd in her nonfiction book “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter,” and other writings such as “When God Was a Woman” by Merlin Stone.

    Like M.B., there are so many women-centric books I’d like to mention and hardly know where to start. I came of age during the time when there were so many great novels in the 60s and 70s that informed my feminism, such as “The Women’s Room” by Marilyn French, “Small Changes” and “Vida” by Marge Piercy, “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing, “Fear of Flying” by Erica Jong, and “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. I also devoured non-fiction by such feminists as Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and Angela Davis.

    Of course, I was also influenced by the classics, some of which have been noted by you and others, “Pride & Prejudice,” “Jane Eyre,” “Little Women,” “The House of Mirth,” and the play “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen.

    Thanks for this column, Dave, as it has reawakened memories of books and authors I’d read at a very impressionable and important period of my life.

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    • Thank you, Kat Lit, for the multiple-faceted comment!

      Glad you also read “The Secret Life of Bees”! Among the highest praise one can offer a novel is wanting to get to know and live with the characters. (Reminds me of how that actually happened in Jasper Fforde’s “The Eyre Affair,” with the protagonist going through a “Prose Portal” to do just that. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

      Yes, the 1960s and ’70s were a great time for feminist fiction and nonfiction, and thankfully that has continued through the ensuing decades (in perhaps a bit less obvious way). And, as you allude to, the novels we read when we were young can have a major enduring impact on our psyches and memories.

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      • “The Eyre Affair” has been on my radar for a long time, perhaps I’ll now get to it rather sooner than later.๐Ÿ™‚ When I first started reading mysteries 50 years ago, most of the ones I read were written by men (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John D. MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Rex Stout, Dick Francis, etc.). Most of the women mystery writers I read back then had a man as the main character, though often with a strong female sidekick/wife (think Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, Roderick Allen/Agatha Troy, Albert Campion/Amanda Fitton). Of course there were also the silvery-haired amateur detectives/spies like Miss Marple, Miss Silver and Mrs. Pollifax, all of whom I adored, but it it was exciting and empowering when the heroes of detective fiction became the kick-ass V.I. Warshawski (Sara Paretsky), Kinsey Milhone (Sue Grafton), Carlotta Carlyle (Linda Barnes), and Sharon McCone (Marcia Muller). I still read some of their new novels and reread older ones. I also find that I seek out women writers of detective/mystery/suspense fiction much more than men, though there are still some very good ones that I love, like Jo Nesbo and John Verdun,

        Sorry to always resort to lists of books and authors, but I’ve read so many books throughout my fairly long life that I’m afraid to leave any of them out of my comments. Plus, I love making lists, you should see some of the playlists I make on Spotify! ๐Ÿ˜

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        • Terrific follow-up comment, Kat Lit! Yes, mystery/detective/crime novels have thankfully evolved to some extent with many more strong female protagonists — even as some of those characters also have insecurities, like most of us do. Yet another example would be bounty hunter Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s novels.

          “The Eyre Affair” is kind of light reading but a lot of fun!

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          • I also wanted to mention P.D. James, who wrote the very intelligent Adam Dalgliesh detective series that was quite enjoyable; however, the first of her books that I read in 1971 was “An Unsuitable Job for a Woman,” featuring PI Cordelia Gray. As much as I liked Dalgliesh (a poet!), I wish James had written more novels about Gray — there were only two, the other being “The Skull Beneath the Skin.”

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            • You’re right, Kat Lit — a shame that P.D. James didn’t feature Cordelia Gray in more books. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I wonder if she felt some constraints about spotlighting a female private investigator? ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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              • So, Dave, I was pondering the question you raised, and I’m pleased to report that there’s an answer from the great P.D. James herself. I remembered that I still have her non-fiction book “Talking About Detective Fiction” on my Nook, which I read about ten years ago. I reread the whole book this afternoon (which isn’t very long) and at one point she says that if she were writing today, she might well choose a woman as her main detective. However, she started writing in the mid-1950’s, and at that time women weren’t active in the detective force, so she had to make a decision to go with a professional male or an amateur sleuth of either sex. She made the choice to go with what was more the path of realism and so named Adam Dalgliesh after her high school English teacher. Now I truly remember why I missed commenting on your blog and why it’s always been so stimulating for me. Rereading this book this afternoon was such a rewarding experience, especially because she talked about so many of the authors and characters I mentioned in my previous comment to you. There was a whole chapter about the hard-boiled American detectives, Hammett, Chandler, and her favorite (and mine) Ross MacDonald, and V.I. Warshawski was her favorite of the women PIs. There was another chapter devoted to the “Formidable Four” of women mystery writers of the Golden Age — Christie, Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh — all of whom I’ve read and greatly admired. So thanks again, Dave!๐Ÿ™‚ Except now of course I want to go back and reread all of the great detective stories and novels from the Golden Age, the American PIs, and the classics that preceded them, especially “The Moonstone.” But when will I find the time?!๐Ÿ˜

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                • Thank you, Kat Lit, for finding the answer to that question from the person who would know best — P.D. James herself! Very interesting comment by you, and it sounds like a very interesting nonfiction book by her!

                  I appreciate your kind words about this blog and the commenters here — we all learn a lot from each other, and are spurred to investigate things further via other sources. ๐Ÿ™‚

                  As for “The Moonstone,” I like that early detective novel a LOT, and think Wilkie Collins at his best is a superb author.

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  6. Hi Dave,

    I actually feel like Iโ€™m commenting quite early in the week this time, and yet the party is already in full swing!

    Having recently read The Color Purple it was the first novel I thought of. Lots of ugliness in it, but also lots of beauty. It was an absolute joy to spend time with the wonderful female characters and relationships that Walker created. Though Iโ€™m probably the wrong colour to ever be a part of that particular world, I couldnโ€™t help but feel a sense of belonging as Walker so hauntingly told stories of violence and abuse that Iโ€™m all too familiar with. And yet, instead of it being an angry man-hating book, it seemed to do the opposite. It celebrated the strength and resilience of women who have to put up with way too much. Much like The Secret Life of Bees which I also loved โค

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    • Hi Susan! Thank you for the very eloquent comment!

      “Lots of ugliness in it, but also lots of beauty.” So true about “The Color Purple.” One of those novels where important female relationships indeed help some characters bear their difficult lives. Sounds like the novel and its themes (among other themes) of violence and a abuse were really relatable for you. That can offer a reader some comfort and a feeling of “I’m not in this alone.”

      And, yes, there are some parallels between “The Color Purple” and the later “The Secret Life of Bees.”

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  7. Very thoughtful topic, Dave, with a lot of good reading suggestions! When I first starting following your columns long ago (at that other place) you made mentions of how much you loved “Jane Eyre”. I recall being pleasantly surprised and thinking “This is a man who is truly interested in a woman’s point of view.” I have no doubt your wife and daughters agree.

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    • Thank you for the kind words, Pat! Very appreciated!

      “Jane Eyre” remains my favorite novel, years after “that other place” has mostly faded into memory. ๐Ÿ™‚ There is so much great women-written, women-centered fiction out there, past and present.

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  8. Oh boy where do I start?! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ What a fun topic this week Dave! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ As I am a woman who wrote a book about women trying to survive D-Day that comes out in March, I read piles of female centered books – especially historical-fiction. A few years ago, I very much enjoyed the wave of novels that came out about the wives of some of history’s famous men. “The Aviator’s Wife” followed the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and it was one of my favorite reads that year. “The Paris Wife” tells the story of Hemmingway’s first wife, which was also an amazing read. And recently, there have been loads of fantastic books out about women in WWII who slipped through the pages of history. Kate Quinn’s “the Huntress” talks a lot about Russia’s “Night Witches” female bomber squadron. Martha Hall Kelly’s “the Lilac Girls” is a female-centered look at Ravensbruk, the all-women concentration camp of WWII. Ruta Sepetys, one of my favorite authors, has a couple great books out about WWII and the Spanish Civil War from the female perspective. And, a recent read that I VERY much enjoyed is “Hamnet,” a book about Shakespeare, his wife, his children, and the plague – written by a woman and told more from the perspective of his wife. I could keep going on this subject for days, so I think I’ll stop there. But I was very glad to see this post, let me know if you want any recommends in this area. Also – you might like to know Jennifer Ryan (the Chilbury Ladies Choir) has a new book out – “the Kitchen Front.” I didn’t like it as much as Chilbury but it was still a pretty good book!

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    • Thank you, M.B., for the excellent and wide-ranging comment!

      First of all, congratulations again on your upcoming book! Very exciting news!

      The genre of novels focusing on women associated with better-known men is an interesting one — and a way to improve the historical record by giving some very accomplished women their due. (Being married to the macho, rather-obnoxious-at-times Ernest Hemingway had to have been quite a challenge.)

      Kate Quinn’s “The Huntress,” which you recommended to me a while ago, was a riveting novel — and the “Night Witches” female aviators element was one of the many highlights.

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      • Oh my goodness haha – you hit the nail on the head with “the Paris Wife,” you might enjoy giving it a read! I just liked the concept of bringing some balance into the historical story by hearing from the wives. Especially in military history, it’s nice to have that perspective.

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        • Not surprised about Hemingway. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

          Yes, bringing some balance is a good thing. And women’s involvement in/association with military history is indeed more extensive than has been written about.

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  9. Hi Dave, I must be honest I am wracking my brain to think of examples of books I’ve read about female friendships. I have never been a person who has had a lot of female friends; I’ve always worked in a male orientated environment and have more male friends. I have read Little Women and What Katy Did at School which features sisters. I read a lot of books about war so they are more male dominated books. I thought your comments about insights into the female mind where interesting.

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    • Thank you, Robbie!

      Everyone is different. ๐Ÿ™‚ As an adult, I’ve probably had more female friends and acquaintances than male ones.

      And, yes, most novels with a strong war element focus more on men than women. Some exceptions, such as Elsa Morante’s “History,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun,” L.M. Montgomery’s “Rilla of Ingleside,” etc. — often with the female protagonists not on the front lines.

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      • Thanks for mentioning these books, Dave. I didn’t know about the three books about Anne’s children. They never had these ones in my local library. I just looked them up on Wikipedia and I see there are three of them. I will definitely be reading those. Thanks for that reference, it’s like getting a Christmas present to know there are more Anne books.

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        • You’re very welcome, Robbie! Most of the “Anne of Green Gables” sequels are very good (though not as good as “AoGG” ๐Ÿ™‚ ), and the World War I-set “Rilla of Ingleside” might be the best of those sequels. L.M. Montgomery seemed incapable of writing a novel that wasn’t compelling.

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  10. Wow, Dave, after reading your recommendations and those in the comments of your readers, my ‘to read’ list is longer than ever!

    I loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett– especially poignant, I thought, was the maid Aibileen teaching her toddler charge Mae affirmations about her being smart and beautiful.

    I’m currently two-thirds of the way through The Other Bennett Sister by Janice Hadlow. It’s about Mary, the plain, studious sister in Pride and Prejudice. It’s well-written and easy to read (don’t let the length, 655 pages, put anyone off– I have a feeling that I won’t want this to end!). I think that any fan of Jane Austen will enjoy it.

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    • Thank you, Debby! I know what you mean about to-read lists that get longer and longer. My list frightens me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’ve heard a lot about “The Help,” but never read it. The interaction you describe between Aibileen and Mae does sound memorable!

      Despite the length of my list, I just added “The Other Bennett Sister” to it. I’m a fan of Jane Austen’s novels, and it’s nice when a less-prominent character gets more attention. Shades of Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea,” Margaret Atwood’s “The Penelopiad,” Geraldine Brooks’ “March,” etc.

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  11. Such a range of novels mentioned! And to this I shall add three more. Elizabeth Gaskell has already been mentioned but I’d like to add ‘Cranford’. I seem to recall that it is set in a town with a largely female population and the arrival of any man seems to disrupt the equilibrium for all sorts of reasons. One of the events from the book I can recall is the two sisters who spend an evening reading and burning their parents’ correspondence. I found this a very touching scene.
    The next novel I shall mention is ‘The G-String Murders’ by Gypsy Rose Lee. This a story with female relationships at the very heart of it. Whilst it isn’t going to win any literary awards it does capture the essence of the relationships between the women when they sit back stage and chat and bicker with each other. And lastly ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo, is a story involving 12 women (….I think) and the relationships they have with each other. It’s not the usual sort of thing I read but I did enjoy it and read it in a day or two. I liked the snapshots of the lives of the different characters which kept me hooked. It also dealt with quite toxic relationships that can develop as well as all the positive aspects as well. I hope you had a good 4th July Weekend!

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    • Thank you, Sarah!

      I liked “Cranford” a lot, and you’re right that it focused a lot on female characters as it looked at cultural and industrial changes coming or about to come to a small town.

      Interesting how some show-biz people such as Gypsy Rose Lee wrote novels. Also Fannie Flagg, Thomas Tryon, etc. And a novel involving about a dozen women — wow! That is a literary accomplishment.

      I had a relatively quiet July 4th weekend, which is fine with me. Well, the fireworks last night weren’t so quiet… ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • “In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women.” First sentence, Chapter One, “Cranford”. ”’ Sets the tone…

      Charlotte Bronte, herself later subject of a Gaskel biography, wrote to her in in 1853: “Thank you for your letter. It was as pleasant as a quiet chat, as welcome as spring showers, as reviving as a friend’s visit; in short, it was very like a page of “Cranford”.

      Your memory of the sisters burning their family correspondence reminded me of another conscious effort at burning, this one recounted in his autobiography by Otis Skinner(1858-1942), an American actor, and father of Cornelia Otis Skinner. One night after performances were finished, he came upon fellow actor Edwin Booth, in the act of removing various items from an old trunk and putting them into the stove. They were things once owned by his infamous brother, the late John Wilkes Booth.

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      • A great opening line which definitely sets the tone!

        I keep finding out more and more about Elizabeth Gaskell. I was aware she had written a biography of Bronte but it hadn’t occurred to me the subject might still be around to read it. What a compliment for Mrs G to have her work referenced in the letter from Miss B!

        My dear friend Google reminded me of the significance of the infamous Booth. Quite an anecdote indeed!

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        • I’ve read “The Old Nurse’s Story”, a short tale that may be the first to feature a ghost playing the organ, but “Cranford” is the only novel of hers I’ve read. I do have another at the ready, should a mood for more overtake me: “Ruth”. My method of acquiring books is so haphazard– akin to beach-combing. Whatever the itinerant sellers of books have out on their card tables that look intriguing, that’s the selection from which I make my purchases, and how I acquired “Ruth” (and earlier, “Cranford”).

          As a son of the Old South, and steeped in too much Civil War stuff from birth until I fled North, I envy you your recent ignorance of JW Booth and his infamy. His father Junius, another celebrity actor here, wrote a letter decades earlier to President Andrew Jackson, in which he threatened stabbing. The self-regard and self-importance of actors has dogged the US from early on.

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  12. Late to the party as usual, but I’d like to mention a woman-centred novel written by a man: Kevin Brennan’s book Occasional Soulmates. He did a superb job with the female pov character. Another book is House of Crows, by Victoria BC author Edeana Malcolm. It portrays three generations of women in Victoria’s early days of European settlement.

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    • Thank you, Audrey! Not late at all. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Great point that some male authors have written excellent women-centered novels, as you note with “Occasional Soulmates.” Some even did that in the 19th-century, as with “The Portrait of a Lady,” “Anna Karenina,” and “Madame Bovary” — though those three novels mostly focused on one female character rather than two or more.

      “House of Crows” sounds really interesting!

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  13. I’m so happy to hear that you liked “The Secret Life of Bees,” Dave! I also enjoyed “The Wednesday Sisters” by Meg Waite Clayton. It’s about five women who meet in the 1960s in California, and we see them as they start writing, continue meeting, support each other through difficult situations, and evolve. Very good book!

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  14. I’ll add ,”The Vanishing Half .” A superb book. I’m putting, “Grand Avenue” on my to read list.

    A happy, safe, 4th of July, Dave, to you and your blog posters!

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    • Thank you, Michele! I’ve had “The Vanishing Half” on my list since you mentioned it once before. It does sound excellent (just googled it again). Glad you mentioned it again. ๐Ÿ™‚

      A happy and safe Fourth of July to you as well!

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    • Thank you for the comment, Shaharee.

      I prefer the term “eavesdropper” rather than “stalker” in this context, because most female authors who write women-centered novels expect and welcome at least some male readership. ๐Ÿ™‚

      And, in my case, I learn some things when reading women-centered novels by female authors — even if much of that learning might be on a subconscious level.

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  15. What lucky hand you have in choosing themes, Dave! I would recommend everything written by Alice Munro; “Lives of Girls and Women”, if one wants to start with a collection of short stories closest to the theme of your post. If I have to provide an answer to the question “Why Men Should Read Women-Centered Novels”, then, as for Alice Munro, it would be: because of her art’s humanity and universality. Then there is Elizabeth Gilbert’s brilliant and witty novel “The Signature of All Things” (which I’m proud to possess a signed copy of). It is very much a woman-centered novel, and certain to be a page-turner in the hands of women and men alike. Ah, there is so much more. Everything written by Virginia Woolf, who continues to represent one of the most intense female voices in world literature… By, hey, this is a comment, not a post. I enjoyed the earlier comments and I look forward to the many reactions that I’m sure will follow over the next week.

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    • Thank you, Dingenom Potter! All well said!

      I know what you mean about “artโ€™s humanity and universality”; much of the best fiction by women, and by men for that matter, have that — in addition to possibly containing elements sort of specific to their gender.

      I’ve read one Alice Munro story collection — “Friend of My Youth” — and was impressed. I haven’t read any of Elizabeth Gilbert’s work yet; wonderful that you have a signed copy of her “The Signature of All Things”! And Virginia Woolf is a GREAT mention.

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  16. I would recommend The Birth House by Ami Mccay. It’s set in a smalll village in Nova Scotia during WWI. The plot revolves around the women of the village banding together to maintain their ability to be treated by a midwife instead of the male medical establishment. Having had a male obstetrician for my daughter’s birth, I was rooting for the women. Just sayin’ . . .

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  17. Dave – an excellent post and one that has been in my mind lately. I love my discussions with my mother, Frances, and my sister, Sarah – we share a special bond. Which brings me to my latest amazing book that Iโ€™m reading. It isnโ€™t a novel, (canโ€™t get away from non-fiction) but it has given me a profound insight into women writers and their friendships. โ€œA Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontรซ, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolfโ€ by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney. Based on long-forgotten letters and diaries, these women have become real to me. I appreciated a diversity of thought and a respect in the relationships, even though opinions and values were sometimes on opposite sides. There is a richness of conversation, a recognition that we are the best when we are surrounded by friendships.

    Frances has just finished reading โ€œThe Red Tentโ€ and I read it on a bus between Edmonton and Vancouver. Isnโ€™t it interesting that when we read a great book, we remember the time and location of opening the book. As you know, I have difficulty leaving any conversation without adding a favourite quote:

    โ€œIf you want to understand any woman, you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully.โ€ Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

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    • Thank you, Rebecca!

      I also love the discussions between you, Frances, and Sarah on your podcast. Very much looking forward to the next one. ๐Ÿ™‚

      From your eloquent description, “A Secret Sisterhood: the Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontรซ, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf” sounds terrific; I’m sure the words from those four authors’ letters and diaries are interesting and illuminating. They’re all such iconic writers, with Eliot aka Mary Ann Evans perhaps my favorite novelist (among all novelists, not just those four) and Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” my favorite novel.

      Wonderful that both you and Frances have read “The Red Tent”! Very good novel — I was intrigued with how Anita Diamant fleshed out a lesser-known character (Dinah) from a famous Old Testament family. Excellent Diamant quote, and, yes, it’s great when a novel is memorable enough to recall where we were when reading it!

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      • Thank you so much, Mary Jo. Iโ€™m looking forward to meeting up with Frances and Sarah โ€œin personโ€. It has been over 6 months now and Iโ€™m glad that we are opening up. Progress is being made. Sending many many hugs!

        Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Mary Jo! Very true; I should have mentioned at least one of them! I’ve read three of Amy Tan’s books — “The Joy Luck Club,” “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” and (recently) “The Bonesetter’s Daughter” — and they all gave me plenty of insight into women’s lives and Asian/Asian-American lives.

      Liked by 5 people

  18. When I published my first novel I never pictured men reading it. Itโ€™s definitely geared to female readers. I was surprised, then, when several of my husbandโ€™s golf buddies bought and actually read the book! When I announced the title of my sequel, one such man sent me a text. He was concerned that my main character was going to become entangled with another man too soon after her husbandโ€™s death. He stated his reasons and I smiled the whole time I was reading it. I was touched by his enthusiasm.

    Liked by 4 people

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