What's the Name of That Book??? discussion

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Suggest books for me > Clever and not overly-sentimental books about female protagonist facing crisis or disenchantment

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message 1: by Tanya (last edited Jun 01, 2016 04:46PM) (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Hi everyone!

I'm hoping for some recommendations for books where a female protagonist who is in her 30s and on (can be a little younger, I just don't want a college kid or teenager) is dealing with some sort of life crisis or general life disenchantment in some irreverent ways. An example of a book I read in the past in a similar vein but with a male character is This Book Will Save Your Life, where a wealthy middle aged man in LA sees a sinkhole outside his house, and somehow it just sends him into a kind of existential tailspin where he ends up roaming around the city befriending a doughnut shop owner, a woman in a grocery store, and an actor living down the street. It's a bit surreal, and focused more on the way opening yourself up to possibility or new encounters with people can really change a perspective.

Another book, much more gritty and not as cut and dry that I liked was How to Get into the Twin Palms.

What I want:
Really fine writing. Humor and wit, but not necessarily a comedic book. A female character who is not solely defined by her relationship to other people (i.e. being a wife or mother or girlfriend). I don't need a happy ending. An ambiguous or realistic one is good.

What I don't want:
All life lessons or new realizations the characters gets are from a romantic encounter. I don't want romance to be the focal point of the book, but it's fine if it's a side element. I don't want an Eat, Pray, Love or Under the Tuscan Sunsort of book. I need a little more grit and weirdness, and ideally the protagonist isn't going on some lavish trip to find herself, but does so somewhere not far from home.

I know this is all very specific, but I know books like that exist! Feel free to throw in suggestions that don't necessarily hit all the points but you think I would like based on my preference for weird, smart, and a little bit cynical (but not hopeless).


message 2: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
I thought for sure I read a lot of books like this, but it turns out I don't. All the ones I've read that are like this have a man at the center rather than a woman.

I think Freedom would fit your description. It's about a married couple with kids but the wife is introduced first, so we get to know her better.

Maybe Cassandra at the Wedding, featuring two sisters, although they are pretty young. Possibly between 22-25. I believe they are out of college. Quirky, but also dark.

There's American Wife which is a novelized version of Laura Bush's life. It's not as strange as it sounds, and it does have comedic moments.

The Emperor's Children is one of those books with an ensemble cast, with the women given more prominence than the men. Of the other books on the list, it is most like 'Freedom.'


message 3: by Tanya (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "I thought for sure I read a lot of books like this, but it turns out I don't. All the ones I've read that are like this have a man at the center rather than a woman.

I think Freedom..."


Thank you very much for your suggestions!


message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 1532 comments Seconding Cassandra at the Wedding, which lobstergirl mentioned - I really like that book. You might also enjoy:

A Certain Age A very dark satire about an extremely shallow woman trying to succeed socially in New York. (I think it's a modern retelling of The House of Mirth) She does pursue a lot of relationships but certainly isn't saved by any of them.

Glory Goes and Gets Some about a woman recovering from addiction and finding out she is HIV positive.

Green is about a young Mormon woman who marries young and her husband turns out to be abusive. The relationship does dominate the start of the book but later she has to learn to get by on her own.

I really liked The Dud Avocado and The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy, both about young women finding their way in the world.

Also A Time to Be Born is awesome, with a slight Mad Men vibe, about a woman who moves to New York in the 1930s.

I'll throw in a rec for Fear of Flying although it's very focused on relationships, but the message is about not waiting to be saved by a man.

I've noticed a lot of my suggestions are not very recent... I think I haven't read anything great in this genre for a while!


message 5: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 1532 comments Just adding a few slightly more recent ideas:

Mrs. Kimble 3 female characters who were all married to the same shady man at various points in his life.

All My Puny Sorrows About a woman's relationship with her mentally ill sister. Be warned it is very sad!


message 6: by Tanya (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Rachel wrote: "Just adding a few slightly more recent ideas:

Mrs. Kimble 3 female characters who were all married to the same shady man at various points in his life.

[book:All My Puny Sorrows|1833..."


Thank you so much, Rachel! I'll look through those and add them to my To Read :)


message 7: by Tanya (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Rachel wrote: "Seconding Cassandra at the Wedding, which lobstergirl mentioned - I really like that book. You might also enjoy:

A Certain Age A very dark satire about an extremely shallow woman try..."


Oh and I loved The Dud Avocado! Although it is that sort of "wealthy uncle pays for a trip of self discovery" thing that would have annoyed me, I really loved the wit and the self-deprecation.


message 8: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
You may not be looking for classics, but Middlemarch is terrific and it has a young woman as the primary character. We follow her, I think, through her 20s and 30s, along with a full cast of other characters. Crisis and disenchantment for nearly everyone, although that makes the book sound darker than it seems when you're reading it.


message 9: by Tanya (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "You may not be looking for classics, but Middlemarch is terrific and it has a young woman as the primary character. We follow her, I think, through her 20s and 30s, along with a full c..."

Oh, classics are fine, and that's one that I never caught up on! Thank you.


message 10: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 1532 comments Tanya wrote: "Oh and I loved The Dud Avocado! Although it is that sort of "wealthy uncle pays for a trip of self discovery" thing that would have annoyed me..."

I know what you mean, that's why I liked The Old Man and Me by the same author - because it's about a woman who is financially cut off by her family and trying to get the money back!


message 11: by C. (new)

C. | 219 comments I just finished this one and loved it! Quinn (Wyoming Sky, #1) by R.C. Ryan


message 12: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
Another classic, although certainly not weird, is Howards End. Features two 20-something sisters who buck society's expectations.


message 13: by Tanya (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "Another classic, although certainly not weird, is Howards End. Features two 20-something sisters who buck society's expectations."

A definite classic, and one that I did read and enjoy. Thank you!


message 14: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (last edited Aug 13, 2016 06:19PM) (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
The Debut. When the book opens the protagonist is 40, but very quickly it begins to look back on her life, her adolescence, and a kind of "blossoming" which happens when she's 22. But she is relatively mature, not a young/dumb 22. There is some very understated humor.


message 15: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
Alias Grace is historical fiction.


message 16: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
The Song of the Lark has some of this.


message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 04, 2017 08:27AM) (new)

Maybe An Unnecessary Woman? I thought it was fabulous. And brilliant. Oh, sorry. Very old thread.


message 18: by Kaion (last edited Aug 04, 2017 01:29PM) (new)

Kaion (kaionvin) | 391 comments Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

Definitely irreverent: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day


message 19: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
The Wall. Late 40s/early 50s woman alone in post-apocalyptic environment.


message 20: by Tanya (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Thank you all for keeping this thread going with suggestions! Continuing to add titles to my ever growing and morphing To Read shelf :)


message 21: by Kaion (last edited Aug 28, 2017 03:52PM) (new)

Kaion (kaionvin) | 391 comments It Does Not Die by Maitreyi Devi - Poet in her 60s is confronted with her youthful, half-forgotten past in colonial-era 1930's Bengal.

Passing by Nella Larsen - Exploration of identity that begins when a woman runs into her old childhood friend in a hotel restaurant.


message 22: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Love | 1057 comments Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe


message 23: by Abigail (new)

Abigail (handmaiden) | 390 comments You might give Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym a try.


message 24: by Marie (new)

Marie | 8 comments Excellent Women is great, I recommend anything by Barbara Pyn.


message 25: by Tanya (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Marie wrote: " Excellent Women is great, I recommend anything by Barbara Pyn."

Abigail wrote: "You might give Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym a try."

Yes! I have it very near the top of my stack! I actually started it, but then life got chaotic and I ended up having to put it on the back burner.


message 26: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Love | 1057 comments Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell Cranford


message 27: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)


message 28: by Rosa (new)

Rosa (rosaiglarsh) | 4974 comments Out of the Blue is perfect. Almost anything by Isabel Wolff, really.


message 29: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)


message 30: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 1532 comments Anne Tyler has a few books like this. A Slipping-Down Life and Back When We Were Grownups are two examples.

I'd also recommend Swing Time by Zadie Smith, about a woman who loses touch with her best friend, gets fired from her job and generally ends up re-assessing her life.


message 31: by Ebookworm2016 (new)

Ebookworm2016 | 183 comments The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan.

There is romance, but the main crisis revolves around a job change and taking a risk in that area. This is not gritty, but humorous.


message 32: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
The Mirror in Darkness trilogy, starts with Company Parade.


message 34: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)


message 35: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
The Door


message 36: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)


message 37: by Tanya (new)

Tanya (thisistanyaf) | 19 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "The Misalliance" Thank you! I appreciate you always adding suggestions. Helps keep the To Read shelves ever evolving :)


message 38: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
You're welcome - it's a good topic.


message 39: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
I think in general Anita Brookner would fit this topic.


message 40: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37567 comments Mod
Eileen is definitely gritty and weird.


message 41: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)


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