100 Novels by British Women

At the weekend, prompted by having started to reread Wuthering Heights (a mere 29 years after I’d first read it as a callow sixth-former), I asked my friends on Facebook and Twitter – men and women – to recommend their favourite ten novels by British women that I ought to read. The response was overwhelming, and I’ve been asked by so many people to share the list that I thought I’d post it here.

(I should add that I’ve edited the suggestions as follows. I removed any novels that are primarily or exclusively for children, since these might make for an interesting post later on: this is, of course, not a firm boundary, and there are several novels on this list that might perhaps have been excluded on that basis, and a few excluded that perhaps ought not to have been. I’ve also excluded recommendations from anyone whose list comprised books by a single author, since that didn’t really seem in the spirit of the thing – if anyone’s interested, the two authors who received such monomaniacal attention were J. K. Rowling and Agatha Christie. Several people also recommended novelists rather than novels, so I was unable to include them in this particular list.)

Anyway, here’s the list, divided into three parts: the top three, the next nine, and then the list in full… Of the top twelve, I must shamefacedly confess that I’ve read only four, so that’s my reading for at least the next few months taken care of! Sincere thanks to everyone who contributed, and I hope everyone finds something interesting to read here.

The top three

1. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

2. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

3. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

The next nine

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Oranges are not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

To the lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

The 13th Tale – Diane Setterfield

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

I capture the castle – Dodie Smith

The full 100 recommendations

Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte

All Passion Spent – Vita Sackville–West

Angels and Men – Catherine Fox

The Backwards Shadow – Lynne Reid Banks

Beyond black – Hilary Mantel

Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

The Bell – Iris Murdoch

Birthday boys – Beryl Bainbridge

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

Cecilia – Fanny Burney

The Charioteer – Mary Renault

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt

Chocolat – Joanne Harris

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

The Colour –  Rose Tremain

Consequences – Penelope Lively

The Crystal Cave – Mary Stewart

Dark Matter – Michelle Paver

The Death of Harriett Frean – May Sinclair

Diary of a Provincial Lady – EM Delafield

Elmet – Fiona Mozley

The End of Mr Y – Scarlett Thomas

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Faustine – Emma Tennant

A Field Guide to Reailty – Joanne Kavenna

The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing

Five Quarters of the Orange – Joanne Harris

Forests of the night – Sarah Harrison

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Gaudy Night – Dorothy L. Sayers

Gentlemen and Players – Joanne Harris

The Girls of Slender Means – Muriel Spark

Great lover – Jill Dawson

High Wages – Dorothy Whipple

The House at Midnight – Lucie Whitehouse

How to be both – Ali Smith

I capture the castle – Dodie Smith

The Icarus Girl – Helen Oyeyemi

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

The L–shaped Room – Lynne Reid Banks

Labyrinth – Kate Mosse

Lara – Bernardine Evaristo

Left Hand Of Darkness – Ursula Le Guin

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

Lives and Loves Of A She Devil – Fay Weldon

The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

The Man in the Brown Suit – Agatha Christie

Mariana – Monica Dickens

Middlemarch – George Eliot

The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson

Miss Ranskill Comes Home – Barbara Euphan Todd

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

Murder of Roger Aykroyd – Agatha Christie

Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy L. Sayers

The Mysteries Of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe

The Night Watch – Sarah Waters

Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter

No fond return of love – Barbara Pym

No night is too long – Barbara Vine

North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Old Filth – Jane Gardam

On Beauty – Zadie Smith

One Good Turn – Kate Atkinson

Oranges are not the Only Fruit– Jeanette Winterson

Oroonoko – Aphra Behn

Mrs Palfrey – Elizabeth Taylor

The Passion – Jeanette Winterson

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

Persuasion – Jane Austen

PopCo – Scarlett Thomas

Possession – AS Byatt

Precious Bane – Mary Webb

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark

Puffball – Fay Weldon

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Regeneration – Pat Barker

Sacred Hearts – Sarah Dunant

The Scapegoat – Daphne Du Maurier

The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

The Shell Seekers – Rosamund Pilcher

South Riding – Winifred Holt

Sparkling Cyanide – Agatha Christie

The Summer That Everything Melted – Tiffany McDaniel

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte

Theodora – Stella Duffy

The 13th Tale – Diane Setterfield

To the lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Susan Pulley

White Teeth – Zadie Smith

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

The Woman in Black –Susan Hill

Wuthering Heights –Emily Bronte

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne says:

    A rich and wonderful list that will keep me reading for the rest of my life! But when did Ursula Le Guin become British?

    1. Damn; she slipped through – I removed several other non-British authors that had been mistakenly recommended…

  2. Roberta says:

    I’d add Maria Edgeworth to the list (Belinda is quite a treat)! And her mom, Mary Wollstonecraft 😬

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