The Seven Women of the Apocalypse

On World Book Day, I launched Apocalypse Book, a challenge to read and blog about 268 must-reads before December 21, 2012, the Mayan Armaggedon. Check the site for more information on how I put together the list and why I’m doing such an absurd thing.

As the first week of Apocalypse Book also encompasses International Women’s Day – today! – I decided to kick things off with seven unforgettable literary heroines by seven women writers:

  1. Margaret & Judy (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret)
  2. Antoinette & Jean (Wide Sargasso Sea)
  3. Jane & Charlotte (Jane Eyre)
  4. Catherine & Emily (Wuthering Heights)
  5. Laura & Elizabeth (Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont)
  6. Iris and Margaret (The Blind Assassin)
  7. Jean & Muriel (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)

Tomorrow will be the seventh and final day, so head on over to check the rest!

Out of the 268 Apocalypse Books, 39 are by 33 female authors (six are on there twice). All of these women have made outstanding contributions to literature, and address issues that affect women from puberty to old age.

MARGARET ATWOOD is my pick for International Women’s Day.  Not only is she one of the Guardian’s Top 100 women (fellow AB author Doris Lessing is another), her books  fiercely engage with feminism and depict strong female characters that are as far from the dreaded Mary Sue as you can get.

Reading The Handmaid’s Tale was the first time I remember really thinking about the place of women around the world. I was lucky enough to grow up thinking that gender didn’t matter in terms of what I wanted to achieve – it took me some time to realise that it does, even when it shouldn’t. And I’m still learning, in large part thanks to women writers like Atwood, whom I had the privilege of meeting at World Book Night. She was so different than I had anticipated. The forcefulness and elegance of her writing suggested an austere, intimating kind of person… in fact she seemed sweet and funny.

Finally, what would a special occasion be without a present? I’ve got a brand new copy of her 2000 Booker-prizewinning The Blind Assassin up for grabs. All you have to do for a chance to win is get involved with Apocalypse Book – subscribe, comment, like the Facebook page, or follow on Twitter. Each one of those counts as an entry – the more involvement, the more chances!

I’ll draw the entries out of a hat and announce the winner on Friday. Good luck and may the lady force be with you…

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