What is women's fiction? According to Rebecca Vnuk in her introduction to Read On ... Women's Fiction: Reading Lists for Every Taste, the genre includes novels about women characters and their relationships with family, friends, and men. These novels tend to be written by women, and most of the readers are women. Separating them from romance novels is at times difficult. Women's fiction does not have to include a happy ending, as the romances do. Vnuk points to two trends in women's fiction reflected in book sales and library circulation: lighthearted Chick lit and more serious novels examining social issues, which she describes as "Oprah-esque."
I started my examination of Vnuk's guide with the index. I found four books that I had read among the many unfamiliar titles: The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan, Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I may have also read Emma by Jane Austen, but I am not certain after all the film and television adaptations that I have seen. I thought that I might find more, such as the novels of Barbara Pym or Muriel Spark, which I find fascinating. Vnuk, however, explains in her introduction (which I read after scanning the index) that she focused on contemporary authors, adding only a short list of classical authors at the end.
Like the other guides in the Read On Series, Read On ... Women's Fiction in divided in to five sections group titles according to the appeal factors of character, story, setting, mood, and language. Each list has a common factor, such as Christmas gatherings or war-time love. I think my favorite list titles are "Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional" and "I Still Miss My Ex, But My Aim Is Getting Better."
Read On ... Women's Fiction is going to be handy to have around the library. Jamie and Annie may get some book list and display ideas from it. It will give me some titles to suggest to the next reader who has finished the Sophie Kinsella books. At Thomas Ford, we are going to circulate it and the other Read On Series guides to let readers discover more titles on their own.
Vnuk, Rebecca. Read On ... Women's Fiction: Reading Lists for Every Taste. Libraries Unlimited/ABC-Clio, 2009. ISBN 9781591586340