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Four Great Novels for Exploring Feminism

Updated on April 28, 2014

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

"The Secret Life of Bees" follows Lily Owens on her path to reconnect with the truth about her late mother. With her maid, Rosaleen, she travels to a small town, Tiburon. She soon comes to stay with three incredibly cultured black women living in a Pepto-pink house who may hold the key to the mystery of her mother's past. This novel not only tackles ideas of female strength and integrity but domestic abuse, social stratification, and inner-racial socialization.


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston

"Their Eyes Were Watching God" is narrated by an older Janie recalling how she got to this point to her best friend. Her story is categorized by her three marriages to Logan Killicks, Jody Starks, and Tea Cake. This story is driven by themes surrounding identity, self-reliance, and true love. This novel is truly life changing as it challenges the conventional ideas of the time. Not only is Janie oppressed by the boundaries of marriage but also her mixed racial status. This is a must read for every woman.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

"Jane Eyre" is the story of a young, orphaned girl as narrated by her older self. Her story starts at Gateshead but quickly progresses to Lowood Academy for girls. Once she moves from the walls of Lowood she becomes the governess for a young French girl at Mr. Rochester's estate. This is where her story truly begins. This novel is about finding yourself but more specifically respecting yourself as a woman. Through Jane's story one can explore ideas of equality in marriage, religious theory, and self-respect.


Atonement by Ian McEwan

"Atonement" is a story about a young child who doesn't understand what she see's and makes a terrible mistake. As a result of her mistake, a young man is sent off to war to fight for his freedom, a woman is left heart broken, and she is left forever trying to make amends. A genuinely beautiful and tragic story, "Atonement" is not only a love story but also a story about redemption. All the women in the novel are incredibly strong despite either being flawed or broken in some way. Being more about overcoming tragedy in the wake of war, this story offers a unique perspective on female power and resilience.

They're Movies Too!

Although, the books are definitely more impressive--all of these novels have been made into movies as well. I definitely suggest reading the books before watching the movies. This way you can also see the way the media represents or omits their important themes.

Secret Life of Bees (2008)

Their Eyes Were Watching God (TV Movie 2005)

Jane Eyre (2011)

Atonement (2007)


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