4 Novels Reflecting on Female Adulthood

Sole Cortés

Growing up as a woman means so many specific things in itself. Not only facing the universal struggles of adulthood, but also starting to get lost amidst relationships, self-image issues, the idea of motherhood and the certainty of time passing. The unique female growing experience expands on the verge of adulthood, that frontier we cross when we leave behind our early twenties, that confusing stage many of us are just now in. Adulthood has been widely explored throughout the ages, but female adulthood, as all things female, is a relatively new topic compared to the vast literature covering the male experience.

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova

The necessity of writing and reflecting on adulthood from a female perspective is urgent, as we evolve faster than ever into an often confusing, difficult reality. As we step into it, we face our ambitions, ideals and fears mingled with our past choices, new relationships and career paths. That’s why it’s more important than ever to take the time to reflect on adulthood, to be able to navigate this puzzling but wondrous time by only making the choices we want to make. And, eventually, become the women we want to be.

To begin your journey with ease, these books will help you delve deeper into adulthood and what it means for you as a woman. They are filled with stories that question standards, relay on friendships, discuss motherhood and all the kinds of love that exist out there. And in all, you’ll find an inner voice that will hopefully resemble your own. Happy reading.

Shelf Life by Livia Franchini

Thirty-year-old nurse Ruth has just been abandoned by her long-time boyfriend. All he has left behind is a supermarket shopping list. Working her way through that list and through her pain, Ruth recalls her previous life and relationship, in a shy and quiet quest for her true self. As the story unfolds, we are more and more aware of how she has been shaped purely by the people she has served: the care home patients, her friends and, most of all, her partner, in what are sometimes truly dark ways. It’s time for her to discover who she is, on her own terms. This is a fascinating novel about love, identity and relationships, but mostly about rebuilding and finding oneself. It has been described as ‘The Bridget Jones for cynical souls’ and as a ‘Sally Roon-esque novel’. It’s written in various formats that add up to a witty, sometimes truly ruthless, narrative. You’ll close the book with that feeling you get after a good cry: cleansed and hopeful.

Buy Shelf Life by Livia Franchin here.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019

Young mother Melissa has just given birth to her second baby, and she’s fighting to go on unchanged by that fact. It’s a difficult task to remain herself amidst the fast-paced and sometimes eerily quiet family life. Her husband Michael is trying to hold on to his love for her, but can’t seem to quite do it. Meanwhile, Damien, still marked by the loss of his father, is being pulled away from London by Stephanie, who just wants a peaceful life in the commuter belt with their three children. The two couples will navigate these crucial times in their relationships with energy-filled London and an intoxicating soundtrack as a background.

A close look to intimate relationships and the often mysterious workings behind them, an exquisite dissection of age and sex, friendship, motherhood and grieving, identity and love. Powerful and real. A must-read.

Buy Ordinary People by Diana Evans here.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

In this exhilarating account of her life, Dolly Alderton recalls bad dates, heartbreaks, fascinating inner thoughts, and, above all, the most authentic female friendships. Growing up a millennial in suburban London and moving along in life as a writer and as a woman amidst poorly paid jobs and one night stands. Living life at its best, one anecdote at a time. Full of heart, honesty and incredible humour, this is a book about the need for optimism and true connections. It manages to describe the changing dynamics of friendship with endless doses of wittiness. A real laugh but also a small heartbreak. Just like life.

Buy Everything I know About Love by Dolly Alderton here.

Expectation by Anna Hope

Friends Cate, Hannah and Lissa are each facing their own tribulations throughout their lives. Cate is feeling stuck with her life and she’s struggling to not drown in the reality of her recent motherhood. Successful career woman Hannah quite envies her position, as she and her husband try to conceive. Meanwhile, Lissa is still attempting to become an actress and fighting the rootless feeling of not having a partner or family by her side. All three of them feel somewhat crushed under the weight of expectations - the ones the world places on them but also the ones placed among themselves. Friendship is the key ingredient that will prevent them from crumbling, ultimately saving them.

Although somewhat archetypical regarding the issues each woman faces, especially motherhood and romantic relationships, this novel does a magnificent job expressing the problems modern women confront when they enter their adult years. The distancing friendships, the different paths each one takes and the shared concerns bring on personal reflections on our own lives and what we are doing with them. It’s important to note that some of their issues can be seen as cliché, and this is certainly not a groundbreaking novel. But its little gems and introspective characters will make it worth the read.

Buy Expectation by Anna Hope here.

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