Older women in fiction around the world

Welcome to a month of older women – more specifically, older women in fiction around the world. And where possible I will feature older women in translation.  I am Caroline Lodge, a book-blogger and one of the most popular themes on my blog, Bookword, is older women in fiction.


Dream invitation

It’s a blogger’s dream, my blogging dream – an invitation to blog almost daily for a month about older women in fiction in translation. I have been writing about older women in fiction for many years on Bookword. And also supporting initiatives to publicise women in translation such as Women in Translation Month, which is August: #WITMonth.

Why Older women in Fiction?

A common complaint of older women is that they become invisible. My blog series is in part a challenge to that invisibility in fiction. In my context ‘older’ means from about 60+. I realise in other cultures women are marginalised from an earlier age.

More urgently, we need to change how people see older women. James Baldwin said,

The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even but a millimetre the way people look at reality, then you can change it. [quoted in the TLS by Sarah Ladipo Manyika* 28.5.19}

When I began looking for my own examples of older women who were not sweet, eccentric or death-fixated I was underwhelmed. I decided to collect readers’ ideas about better models of older women in fiction and now I have reviewed 40 titles and have a list of another 40 on my blog page: about the older women in fiction series.

The hunt continues for more good examples of alternative representations of older women. I hope that my posts will nudge you to read of few of my recommendations, and that you will make recommendations.

Not enough older women in translation

But there is a problem with Karen’s invitation. As far as I have discovered there are not many books in translation into English about older women in fiction. On my own blog to date there are only four (about 10%):

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (Finland)

The Door by Magda Szabo (Hungary)

The Woman of Tantoura by Radwa Ashour (Egypt)

The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc (France)

The shortage of older women in translation is an amplification of the failure of publishers to include fiction by women in translation on their lists. Some of the smaller independent publishers do great work it must be said. To some extent the market will develop as the population of older women increases, as it is worldwide. But for now I am just being eagle-eyed and watching the initiatives for promoting fiction in translation. You can help by making suggestions. There is the excellent Biblibio blogwhich hosts Women in translation month. The PEN organisation. This blog and several others.

So with no shortage of older women, only of translations, I suggested to Karen that I could provide posts on older women around the world.

Older Women in Fiction around the World

The continents will be my organising principle for this month, beginning with North America, followed by Europe. I have put novels from African and Middle Eastern writers next, followed by fiction from the UK ending with a roundup of those that got missed.

Where are the older women from South America and the Far East and – most surprising to me as there are so many excellent writers – from New Zealand and Australia?

Not all books with strong examples of older women are written by women, although the large majority of them are. You will find several examples of books by men over the month.

I have not written all the posts. I asked some other readers/writers to contribute.

North America (Canada and US)

So this is what you have to look forward to in week 1:

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

Two Old Women by Velma Wallis

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Eleanor and Abel by Annette Sanford (guest post)

There are other books about older women, especially from Canada. I will refer to these towards the end of August.

Like a Mule bringing Ice Cream by *Sarah Ladipo Manyika will be featured in Week 3.

I am so grateful to Karen Van Drie for this opportunity.

Caroline Lodge

2 thoughts on “Older women in fiction around the world

    1. The Woman Next Door will be featured in the third week, Africa and the Middle East, on Saturday 17th August. Look out for it and see whether you agree with me about it.
      Thanks for the comment. Hope you will visit this site again during August and make more suggestions.


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