Feature

Allison Pataki recommends 6 books with strong female voices

The author recommends works by Jane Austen, Joan Didion, and more

Allison Pataki's new novel, The Queen's Fortune, fictionalizes the life of Napoleon Bonaparte's first fiancée. Below, the best-selling author of The Traitor's Wife and The Accidental Empress recommends six other books that feature strong female voices.

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff (2010).

Cleopatra was the most shrewd, alluring, and pragmatic female boss of antiquity, surviving attempts by her own family to murder her and then earning her place in history alongside Julius Caesar. Pulitzer Prize winner Schiff is ruthless in her revelatory rendering of the highly complex Queen of the Nile, presenting a life that turns Elizabeth Taylor's sultry, snake-wearing legend on its head.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813).

If I must chose only a single Austen novel to include in this celebration of strong female voices, it has to be this one. Lizzy Bennet is beloved by readers everywhere because they relate to her independence, wit, and defiant authenticity.

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora (2020).

Secrets, heartache, and healing fill this story spanning two generations of women living in the South before and after the Civil War. Atakora's writing grips you from the first page of this soon-to-be-published novel. It's no surprise that she is being hailed as a successor to Toni Morrison.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005).

Didion's memoir helped me through some of the darkest days of my life, following my husband's stroke. If you've ever loved, lost, mourned, or simply lived as a human being, Didion's incisive words will hit their mark deep in your heart.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017).

It took Lee almost 30 years to write this book, and thank goodness she followed through. The result is a stunning saga that follows four generations of a Korean family living in Japan. The writing is so poignant, I felt I could taste and smell the rich world the characters inhabit.

Circe by Madeline Miller (2018).

Circe was a fabled goddess who led a solitary life of island exile, tossed back and forth between the gods and the mortals as it served their whims. She's often remembered merely as a tangential character in Odysseus' legend, but in this brilliant fictional reimagining, Miller puts Circe squarely in the center of her own story. Greek mythology has never been so enjoyable.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, try the magazine for a month here.

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