Our top picks for International Women’s Day!

Our top picks for International Women’s Day!

Here at Bookends HQ, we’re spending the week leading up to International Women’s Day celebrating some of our favourite women!

From feel-good fiction with strong female characters, to women writers we can’t get enough of, keep reading for some IWD inspiration!

The Sisterhood by Daisy Buchanan

For fans of Bryony Gordon and Dolly Alderton, The Sisterhood is an honest and hilarious book which celebrates the ways in which women connect with each other.

‘My five sisters are the only women I would ever kill for. And they are the only women I have ever wanted to kill.’

Imagine living between the pages of Pride And Prejudice, in the Bennett household. Now, imagine how the Bennett girls as they’d be in the 21st century – looking like the Kardashian sisters, but behaving like the Simpsons. This is the house Daisy Buchanan grew up in,

In this tender, funny and unflinchingly honest account Daisy examines her relationship with her sisters and what it’s made up of – friendship, insecurity jokes, jealousy and above all, love – while celebrating the ways in which women connect with each other and finding the ways in which we’re all sisters under the skin.

The Long Song by Andrea Levy

A Sunday Times bestseller, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, The Long Song by Andrea Levy is a hauntingly beautiful, heartbreaking and unputdownable novel of the last days of slavery in Jamaica.

You do not know me yet. My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me, it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed.

July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July’s mama Kitty, of the negroes that worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides – far too many for me to list here. But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse.

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

For fans of Marian Keyes, Dolly Alderton and Holly Bourne, Almost Love is one of the most addictive and heartbreaking reads of 2018

When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.

So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.

Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.

But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.

And love is supposed to hurt.

Isn’t it?

The F Word by Lily Pebbles

If there’s one piece of invaluable advice for women and girls of all ages, it is that there is nothing more important than creating and maintaining strong, positive and happy friendships with other women.

In a culture that largely pits women against each other, Lily Pebbles wants to celebrate female friendships… all strings attached!

If Lily’s 1998 diary is anything to go by, female friendships are incredibly complex and emotional – but they’re the mini-love stories that make us who we are. For many women, friends are our partners in crime through life; they are the ones who move us into new homes, out of bad relationships, through births and illnesses. In The F Word, Lily sets out to explore and celebrate the essence of female friendship at different life stages and in its many wild and wonderful forms.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

The Center for women’s reproductive health offers a last chance at hope – but nobody ends up there by choice.

Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.

Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.

Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people – the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment – to this point.

And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose.

Eat, Drink, Run by Bryony Gordon

‘The woman who made talking about your thinking not just acceptable but imperative’ Daily Telegraph

Bryony Gordon was not a runner. A loafer, a dawdler, a drinker, a smoker, yes. A runner, no. But, as she recovered from the emotional rollercoaster of opening up her life in her mental health memoir Mad Girl, she realised that there were things that might actually help her: getting outside, moving her body and talking to others who found life occasionally challenging. As she ran, she started to shake off the limitations that had always held her back and she saw she had actually imposed them on herself. Why couldn’t she be a runner?

In April 2017, Bryony Gordon ran all 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. In Eat, Drink, Run., we join her as she trains for this daunting task and rises to the challenge one step at the time. Of course, on top of the aching muscles and blistered feet, there’s also the small matter of getting a certain royal to open up about his mental health. Through it all, Bryony shows us that extraordinary things can happen to everyone, no matter what life throws our way.

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler

Outspoken. Brave. Brilliant. Fierce.

Alva Smith, her Southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by New York’s old-money circles and determined to win respect, she designed and built nine mansions, hosted grand balls, and arranged for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defied convention for women of her time, asserting power within her marriage and becoming a leader in the women’s suffrage movement.

With a nod to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, Therese Anne Fowler paints a glittering world of enormous wealth contrasted with desperate poverty, of social ambition and social scorn, of friendship and betrayal, and an unforgettable story of a remarkable woman.

Good behaviour will only get a woman so far.

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

1627. In a notorious historical event, pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted 400 people into slavery in Algiers. Among them a pastor, his wife, and their children.

In her acclaimed debut novel Sally Magnusson imagines what history does not record: the experience of Asta, the pastor’s wife, as she faces her losses with the one thing left to her – the stories from home – and forges an ambiguous bond with the man who bought her.     Uplifting, moving, and witty, The Sealwoman’s Gift speaks across centuries and oceans about loss, love, resilience and redemption.

On My Life by Angela Clarke

‘Pacey, fiercely feminist, compulsively readable’ The Pool

Jenna thought she had the perfect life: a loving fiancé, a great job, a beautiful home. Then she finds her stepdaughter murdered; her partner missing. And the police think she did it…

Locked up to await trial, surrounded by prisoners who’d hurt her if they knew what she’s accused of, certain someone close to her has framed her, Jenna knows what she needs to do: Clear her name. Save her baby. Find the killer.

Angela Clarke’s powerful and gripping new novel shines a light on the experiences of women behind bars, especially those rendered more vulnerable still by pregnancy.

Frieda by Annabel Abbs

The extraordinary story of Frieda von Richthofen, wife of D. H. Lawrence and the inspiration for Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Germany, 1907

Aristocrat Frieda von Richthofen has rashly married English professor Ernest Weekley. Visiting her sisters in Munich, she is captivated by a city alive with ideas of revolution and free love, and, goaded by sibling rivalry with her sisters and the need to be more than mother and wife, Frieda embarks on a passionate affair that is her sensual and intellectual awakening.

England, 1912

Trapped in her marriage to Ernest, Frieda meets the penniless but ambitious younger writer D. H. Lawrence. Their scandalous affair and tempestuous relationship unleashes a creative outpouring that influences the course of literature forever. But for Frieda, this fulfilment comes at a terrible personal cost.

International Women’s Day 2019 special: Q&A with Sheila O’Flanagan

International Women’s Day 2019 special: Q&A with Sheila O’Flanagan

International Women’s Day 2019 is on Friday 8th March and to mark this very special day, we interviewed Sheila O’Flanagan, author of The Hideaway.

Who is your favourite female character to have written and why?

Asking me to pick a favourite female character from all the ones I’ve written is a little like asking a parent to pick a favourite child. I love them all equally in different ways. Of the last few books I’ve written, one of the most satisfying stories to tell was that of Imogen in The Missing Wife. I’m really pleased that women are now speaking far more openly about coercive control and emotional abuse in relationships. It’s good that a wider conversation about this has begun too, and that we are more and more able to recognise gaslighting when it takes place. There’s still a belief in some places that only weaker people are gaslighted or emotionally abused, and with Imogen I was able to explore how this happens to women who are fundamentally strong too.

My most recent heroine, Juno (The Hideaway) is also a woman with inner strength but she has to separate herself from family and friends to rediscover it. It’s essential that women don’t feel like failures when something goes wrong in their lives; but we have a tendency to blame ourselves and ask ourselves what we did wrong, rather than accept that some things are not our fault. Juno’s story of recovery is another that was important to me to write.

Which female writers inspire you?

Today I am most inspired by women who write to give enjoyment and pleasure to the reader and who portray the female characters in their books as rounded people with their own aspirations and opinions. I’m a fan of Jodi Picoult, who tackles moral dilemmas in her work and gets to the heart of the problem with skill and humour; I love Joanne Harris’s mesmerising writing and complex characters; and I’m in awe of Cecilia Ahern, who allows fantasy and reality to collide in so many different ways in her writing.

What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

Believe in your own ability and don’t listen to people who insist there’s only one way to do anything. Realise that someone may be in a position of authority not because of their talent but because they were more confident and more assertive than others around them. Don’t settle for second best. (Also, buy Apple shares – Steve Jobs was a genius and you will use and love most of their products in your personal and professional life. If you buy a slice of the company now you won’t have to worry about the pension fund later on!)

Who is your favourite literary heroine and why?

The first character in literature that I totally identified with was Joey Bettany in the Chalet School series. I had bad asthma when I was young and I immediately bonded with Joey, whose ‘weak chest’, and constant colds and coughs, mirrored my own situation. When she was well, though, Joey was a tomboy, fearless, brave and occasionally recklessly silly (just like me). Even more than that, she wanted to be a writer, and by the end of the series of books she had achieved her dream. Never underestimate the importance of strong female characters in children’s books, and how they can help shape our lives.

Which writers are doing a great job of representing the female experience in their work?

I hope I do because it’s always been very important to me that women are represented as characters with multi-stranded lives. Family and relationships matter to us, but so do many other aspects of our lives. I think writers like Marian Keyes show this with the additional advantage of bringing humour to the mix. Holly Bourne’s YA and adult books brilliantly show the pressures that young women in particular are under today. And of course, the fantastic Margaret Atwood has always written believable, strong female characters – the fact that her most famous work, The Handmaid’s Tale, shows a dystopian future for women but is based on things that have happened and are still happening in real life should be a warning to us never to be complacent about the achievements we’ve made.

Sheila’s book, The Hideaway, is out in paperback now. You can buy it here.

The Hideaway