It’s International Women’s Day and to celebrate, I thought I’d share some of my absolutely favourite women in literature.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love strong female characters, and given any chance I will talk your ear off the subject. So, in no particular order, here are some of my favourites:
Sabriel & Lirael
The Old Kingdom Series by Garth Nix
In his fantasy YA series, Nix gives a phenomenal range of female characters who own their cleverness and their strength. They figure out puzzles, they stand up for themselves, they work together and even put the dead to rest. I first read this series at fourteen/fifteen and it’s still a firm favourite of mine, so while Sabriel and Lirael are my standout characters, the whole series is packed with fantastic women.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
It might seem odd to include a children’s book from 1936, but this story has always been a favourite and it’s only as an adult that I’ve truly appreciated how amazing Sylvia is. Noel’s cast is almost entirely female, but Sylvia is the glue that holds the entire family together – she is kind and sweet, but also incredibly determined and I love her for that.
The Entire Cast of ‘The Stars are Legion’
The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
It seems a little like cheating to include the entire cast of a novel, but given that this brutal science fiction novel has an all female line up, I’m going to include it. Hurley is one of my favourite science fiction writers and this novel is gritty and visceral, but it’s got a tiny soft side too. I can’t choose a favourite because I love all the characters in different ways – they’re kickass, sneaky, determined and not afraid of a fight! It totally challenged my expectations of gender because I’d never seen women written this way – and I loved it.
On a side note: I’d also recommend Hurley’s excellent essay “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative”.
Space Unicorn Blues by T. J Berry
This novel wiggled into my life last year and blew my mind – it’s diverse, it’s queer, it’s fantastical but it’s also fierce as fuck. Jenny isn’t really a good person, but she’s not necessarily a bad one either – she’s shades of grey and that’s so representative of people. Berry gives us a whole cast of morally ambiguous characters and throws them together, pitting them against the universe and providing a great piece of social commentary along with it.
I also have to give a shout out to Ricky Tang – I love her so much… even though I know she’d rob me blind, I’m pretty sure I’d be happy about it.
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
I couldn’t write this list and not include two of my favourite witches. Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax are two very different women, and yet I love them both equally. They’re respected, they’re listened to and they’re smart – plus lots of people are scared of them… even if that’s just because Nanny is a terrible singer. Although Pratchett’s discworld contains a host of wonderful women (including Susan, who I also adore), I think Granny and Nanny are my favourites – and if I can be anything like them then I’ll be pleased.
I feel like I should end this list here, as I’ve only just scratched the surface. But if we don’t stop, we’ll be here all day and sadly I have editing to attack!
But I’ll finish off by asking: who are your favourite female characters?