Recommendations for long books with strong heroines?
March 12, 2018 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I don’t get a long time to read these days and find I really enjoy long novels (or memoirs) about strong women I find interesting. It often takes me a long time to finish them and that’s what I appreciate- once I’m into the story it means months of happy reading. I’ve LOVED almost all of Anya Seaton, Rosamunde Pilcher- and I’ve really liked “Wild Swans” and most recently I was just so happy reading “Kristin Lavransdatter”

All of these books were different from one another, so I’m hoping by telling you what I’ve liked so far helps. I suppose they’re all either taking place in a different time, or in a place that just sounds nice (Rosamunde Pilcher)... but all are about women who are living their life and have a lot of descriptions of rooms, customs, and foods etc.

Reading long books means I read more often. It’s like having a show you love and keep watching as opposed to watching a ton of pilots. And I have 2 your children and often don’t get the energy to start something new.

I’ve read through the other questions but not quite found the right recommendation. :-)

600 plus pages would be awesome.

Oh! And I couldn’t quite get into Outlander, I suppose I want to read about women leading “normal” lives that have change and challenges and love- as opposed to women who find themselves in a completely different time (as in time travel) and then learning about it.

Mysteries have also felt a bit much.

Thanks you in advance!
posted by catspajammies to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I loved Hild, and it qualifies.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:32 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]

Judith Merkle Riley -- particularly "The Oracle Glass"
Connie Willis -- particularly "The Doomsday Book"
Daniel Woodrell -- particularly "Winter's Bone"
posted by TrishaU at 1:44 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

Ahab's Wife
posted by veery at 1:44 PM on March 12

I proofread Freya by Anthony Quinn, which I think fits your criteria. I liked it a lot.
posted by ferret branca at 2:49 PM on March 12

Life and Death in Shanghai, by Cheng Nien, surviving the Cultural Revolution.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:51 PM on March 12

Vera Brittain's "Testament" trilogy (nonfiction): Testament of Youth, about coming of age during the First World War, Testament of Friendship, a biography of her best friend Winifred Holtby, and Testament of Experience, about the years until and during WWII and becoming a writer. They have some justly mixed reviews, but they're very powerful, especially the first, very readable, and nice and long.
posted by huimangm at 3:12 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]

The Roselynde Chronicles, by Roberta Gellis; 6 books, historical fiction; basically a family sage following the women of the family in medieval England.

Red Adam's Lady, by Grace Ingram; 1 book not particularly long but really good with lots of historical domestic knowledge, early Medieval England. (don't bother with her other book; not good)
posted by MovableBookLady at 3:40 PM on March 12

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. A Korean woman's life, mostly in Japan, from the 1930s to the 1980s.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 4:08 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

And - although you may have to work to find it - I read about 40 years ago and I'm not sure if it's in print - Great Maria by Cecelia Holland. A medieval noblewoman's life.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 4:13 PM on March 12

The Neapolitan Trilogy by Elena Ferrante!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:59 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]

Seconding Hild, it is long, amazing, and immersive with the details of a very different time the way Kristen Lavransdatter is. (Hild is my favorite book of all time, KL in the top 10)

Also, you might enjoy some of the Outlander books if you skip to the ones set in the Americas. There are still adventures, but they feature a lot of very detailed depictions of frontier living that scratches that historical-fiction itch for me. I was surprised how much I liked them!
posted by foodmapper at 5:03 PM on March 12

Pillars of the Earth by Follett may fit the bill.
posted by Ginesthoi at 6:20 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

If it's no cheating to suggest omnibus editions of trilogies, Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson and the Chronicles of Fairacre by Miss Read fit the bill I think. Both are lovely in a quietly detailed way that is really appealing. And both are almost 600 pages.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:00 PM on March 12

Not sure if this will fit, but Charlotte Salomon’s Life? Or Theater?, published in English as an 840-page book, is an autobiography in the form of paintings with text. Salomon was murdered at Auschwitz after giving the manuscript to a friend and asking him to save it. The book covers her family life as well as her experience as a young Jewish woman in Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich. It’s an amazing work.
posted by FencingGal at 7:05 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

Also, Nicholas Gage’s book Eleni is the story of his mother, who managed to get her children out of Greece in 1948 to keep them from getting sent to communist re-education camps behind the iron curtain, for which she was executed. Amazon says it’s 480 pages.
posted by FencingGal at 7:23 PM on March 12

And Ladies of the Club, by Helen Hooven Santmyer

Isabella: The Warrior Queen, by Kirsten Downey (nonfiction; starts off slow but pays off big)
posted by Corvid at 7:31 PM on March 12

Atlas Shrugged is quite long and features a very strong woman.
posted by davidmsc at 10:23 PM on March 12

The Deed of Paksenarrion is very long
posted by one for the books at 10:42 PM on March 12

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
posted by h00py at 3:32 AM on March 13

I think you'd love A Suitable Boy. It follows 4 families with a bunch of really strong women, including teenage Lata, who they are trying to find a suitable marriage match for. It's epic and rich, and I'm so jealous if you haven't read it because I want to be able to read it for the first time again!
posted by london explorer girl at 4:32 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]

Middlemarch is a classic that I think fits.
posted by FencingGal at 5:58 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

Although recent unsettling news about this now-deceased author has emerged, I highly recommend The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It is a retelling of the King Arthur legend from the female characters points of view.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 6:40 AM on March 13

Seconding Middlemarch and Ferrante.
posted by languagehat at 9:16 AM on March 13

Seconding Hild! That was the first book that came to mind. Also, The Bear and the Nightingale and its sequel, The Girl in the Tower. The third book in that trilogy comes out in, I believe, August of this year.

It's not as long as you asked for, but Uprooted is fantastic. Oh, and Seraphina and Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman, are also wonderful. She has a new book out, Tess of the Road, that I am dying to get my hands on.

I'm also recommending N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy to everyone.
posted by sarcasticah at 10:18 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

A bit left field, but you might like the Diary of a Provincial Lady! If you buy/download all the diaries, it makes for quite a hefty tome.

I also second Uprooted!

Middlemarch does centre around Dorothea, although other characters are involved.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 11:22 AM on March 13

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough - a family saga set in northern Australia

Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck - about an elite woman in late imperial China and her adjustments to societal changes.

Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie - a memoir of one of the early settlers of Canada and her early years in southern Ontario with her husband. (probably not surprising content warning: racism, but not constantly, to my memory - just shockingly here and there). This one is kind of like time travel, except it's a woman from Britain who is in a vastly different place than she is used to. She also wrote a sequel from when she and her husband moved to a "city" called Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush but it's not as good.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:58 PM on March 13

Burial Rights by Hannah Kent was very evocative and almost entirely about women.
posted by bq at 2:41 PM on March 13

After you finish Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, read Blackout and All Clear. To me that has been a lifechanging pair of books, and totally worth the months I spent reading them.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:01 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

I recommend this so often here that people are going to think I'm getting a commission, but I love this type of book and my all-time favorite is Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy. It's about WWII and follows 10 different characters around the world, mostly women. It's a "wartime" book but not really a "war" book, if that makes sense. It's about how the war impacted this group of very diverse characters in different ways. Piercy is a very "phsyical" writer who is aware of the material conditions of people's lives, so there's a lot of great stuff about clothes, home life, popular culture, etc. The female characters in this book are SO INTERESTING!

Also, if you never read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that's another classic of this genre.
posted by lunasol at 5:38 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

Oh, Doomsday Book is one of my favorites. And I loved Blackout and All Clear.
posted by sarcasticah at 6:56 PM on March 13

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