On Writing

Female characters in fiction

Last night, my husband and I argued about female characters in contemporary novels. In his opinion I had been quite tough on Eugenides’ Madeleine – he agreed that she wasn’t as well developed as the male characters in the novel, but which male writer nowadays was able to successfully capture the female psyche?

I protested – there were so many good contemporary authors. They must have written about memorable, witty and profound female characters? But as I tried to actually name them, I found very few. Patty, from the recent Franzen novel was one. And Elisabeth Costello, from the mind of Coetzee. But mentioning Ana Karenina or Madame Bovary was not going to help – as they did not fit the profile of ‘contemporary’.

So my question is: what are your favorite female characters, created by contemporary male authors (in all languages) in the last, say, twenty-five years?


  • Maaike D

    Mag het ook in het nederlands? Lucia van Japin – schitterend gebrek.
    (maar misschien is dat niet echt hedendaags omdat het een historisch personage is?)

  • Claire Polders

    McEwan: a good one. Must admit I have only seen the film – but want to read the novel too. I remember that I liked the woman in On Chesil Beach, although I forgot her name.
    Japin: laten we historische personages toestaan. Dank voor je bijdrage.

  • Claire Polders

    Received many interesting replies via Twitter and Facebook – will write a new piece about this subject at some point (hopefully soon, but I am in the midst of a new novel…)