...these are novels that explore the lives of female protagonists, focusing on all kinds of relationships, be it lovers, spouses, parents, children, friends, or members of a community. The common thread is that the central character is female, and the main thrust of the story is something happening in the life of that woman (as opposed to the overall theme being a romance or a mystery of some sort). Emotions and relationships are the common thread between books that belong in this category. A woman is the star of the story, and her emotional development drives the plot.
It still can be a bit of a nebulous description of a polarizing concept, Vnuk admits, but she argues that if the main character being a woman is essential to the plot, if there are romantic elements but there is "more to the story", if it is written by a woman (Nicholas Sparks, Nicholas Evans, and Chris Bohjalian are authors she notes have written books with female protagonists, but "their stories identify much more with romance, gentle reads, or literary fiction"), and if you are reading the novel not for its use of language but for its woman-centric plot, you are probably reading women's fiction. True women's fiction, Vnuk asserts, are "books that get into a female character’s head and heart".
Where do you weigh in on the question of "women's fiction"? If you are a devotee, we have a list of some recommended reads for you below. If you are not a fan of the "women's fiction" classification, let us know why in the comments!
The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag
The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen
And Then I Found You by Patti Callahan Henry
The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson
As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs
A Killer Stitch by Maggie Sefton
Murder 101 by Maggie Barbieri
The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes
Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie [eBook]
The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick
So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore
You Are the Love of My Life by Susan Richards Shreve
10 authors all women's fiction fans should know: Elizabeth Berg; Barbara Taylor Bradford; Barbara Delinsky; Emily Giffin; Jane Green; Kristin Hannah; Jodi Picoult; Luanne Rice; Danielle Steel; and Jennifer Weiner.
Lists compiled with help from articles in Booklist magazine, including:
"Top 10 Women's Fiction: 2013"
"Rebecca's Rules: Defining Women's Fiction"
"No Clue Where to Shelve These: 6 Women's Fiction Novels That Think They're Mysteries"