One of the best ways to engage with the culture produced by women is to pick up a book written by a woman. Female authors, classic and modern, have given us some of the best and most iconic texts in history from Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird to The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. To celebrate this hidden voices magazine, we’ve decided to highlight some of our favourite female authors.
Mona Awad wrote her master’s dissertation on the element of fear in fairytales and this couldn’t be more apparent across her body of work. She has currently written three novels with a fourth on the way: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl (2016), Bunny (2019), All’s Well (2021) and Rouge (2023). The most popular is Bunny, a fantastical horror which plays on the element of the uncanny in fairytales. It follows protagonist Samantha and the group of ‘Bunnies’ within the fiction masters programme of a prestigious New England arts college. The Bunnies are a group of elitist women who seem to move, think and talk as one whilst always maintaining a sickly sweet air of superiority. Samantha is invited to join their clique and discovers the horrors that are concocted inside.
Bunny is almost indescribable in so few words but could be portrayed as a mix of Frankenstein, Mean Girls and Heathers. As an author, a lot of Awad’s work follows this genre of fantastical horror intermixed with the real horrors of womanhood in our contemporary world. Her books are deliciously dark whilst still dripping in femininity making them delightful, if not slightly disturbing, reads.
Daphne Du Maurier
There are several female authors whose works I enjoy. The contemporary writers I enjoy often grace my Instagram feed if they have an upcoming project while the classic ones will catch my eye if mentioned or featured in the many aesthetic and collectable book collection photos – I’m sure I am not alone.
Safe to say, picking a favourite female author was not exactly an easy decision. This is typical of picking most favourite things…why do you think Julie Andrews only sang about ‘a few’ of her favourite things? I do, however, have an outright favourite book: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I recently re-read it and, although the twists were naturally no longer as head-turning, it was a very captivating read. Other Du Maurier works I would recommend are Julius (1933) and Jamaica Inn (1936). I am yet to read one of her most famous novels, My Cousin Rachel (1951).
Daphne Du Maurier never fixed on one particular genre as her bibliography ranges from mystery to gothic romance to science fiction. However, what I enjoy about her writing style is the creation of atmosphere. Don’t expect the story to cut straight to the point but that is the best part. The background and spirit of the novel is built up to the extent that you feel connected to the people and places rather than just the plot. That is how the, possibly not that dramatic, twists can somewhat sneak up on you.
Du Maurier was a product of her upbringing, growing up in Regent’s Park and surrounded by successful actors and stage-managers, and the characters in her stories are often made – or unmade – by their relationships. This is part of the reason her work is still so captivating today.
Without a doubt, my favourite female author is Beth O’Leary. Still fairly new to the literary world, Beth has four fiction books to her name and one swiftly on its way to be released this September. The formula for her books consists of flawed and loveable characters, humour, imaginative plots and cosy settings *ahem, The Road Trip (2021)*. Even more so, Beth is gifted with being able to provide twists and resolves the reader wouldn’t have imagined. Take The No-show (2022) for example (don’t worry- no spoilers!), Beth would have had to put so much time and effort into the plot. I’m imagining a wall of pictures and string to be able to realise her vision. Although The No-Show is my favourite of Beth’s, my admiration for her stories started with The Flatshare (2019). This was her first-ever book and so well received that it is now a series on Paramount+ with the words, ‘Tiffy and Leon share a bed, Tiffy and Leon have never met’ as the pull. It’s safe to say that her gift of thinking up creative stories is taking her to new heights. Beth O’Leary is up and coming. Scratch that! She’s here and rising! Look out for The Flatshare on your next book trip. Aka the Beth O’Leary gateway book!