Into The Pink?

Sometimes I feel a little left out. You see, I want to fit in with the crowd, but I don't read contemporary women's fiction, despite being female. And I hate telling people I don't read it. So I never mention it publicly. Until now of course.

Part of me thinks I should feign an interest in this genre? Should I educate myself on Maeve Binchy and mind goes blank when I try to recall another women's fiction author? Uh...Cecilia Ahern?

Oh dear. Sometimes I feel like an oddity. When browsing in Waterstones, I make pfaffing noises at the plethora of pink covers which often take up a full shelf. I take on board the point that chick lit books are often good character studies and they leave you smiling at the end, which I supposes is what the majority of readers seek in escapist fiction.

Sometimes I feel I need to fit in. When someone asks me 'oh you like reading?' and I say 'yes, yes I do' they then ask me if I have read the new one from Cecilia Ahern. Actually I've heard of Cecilia. But I have to say 'no, actually I prefer *awkward cough* literary type stuff, you know. Stuff with a bit of depth to it.' They give me weird looks, then ask me what it is and I try to explain.

'Misery memoirs?' they ask.
'Um, yes, sort of, but honestly, they're not that depressing. You really should read some. I usually take two to three to read on holiday.'
'So you don't read Cecilia Ahern?'

I have no interest in reading about shoes, dating or relationships. I assume this is what women's commercial fiction is about. I apologise for this ignorance but I simply give the books a wide berth. Just like any genre, I suppose, you have your good and your bad. And I can't really shoot down books I haven't read, can I? That would be grossly unfair.

I admit I have read a few chick lit type books, although you could count them on one hand. A few summers ago when I had booked annual leave for a holiday to Nowhere, I spent two weeks lying on the bed listening to the rain while reading some chick-lit. Yes, chick lit. And I laughed at Getting Rid of Matthew. What a funny book, so I browsed around and found a few authors I thought I'd like. I made a mental note of them.

So after I finish writing this blog, I'm popping over to my Amazon wish list and adding some light chick lit for summer reading. Yes, chick lit. Why not? That's where I need your help. I need some suggestions, perhaps one or two you think I'd like.


Rosy T said...

Gillian, interesting piece! I have to admit I hate pink covers with a vengeance, and hardly read any chick lit, either... which is made worse, in my case, by the fact I seem to write the stuff (pink covers an' all).

When I have dipped, it's often been a great pleasure. But not always. My difficulty is that I have less than no interest in clothes, shoes, make-up, dieting, celebrity culture or shopping - but I lap up humour, and well-observed personal relationships, which is the very fabric of most chick lit. I should read more - and, probably, so should you. But I do think they should come with a little Gucci handbag symbol in the corner if there is more than 5% 'lifetsyle' content.

Karen said...

Maybe it's the covers that do them a disservice. Mine will be classed as chick-lit (if and when it's published!), but it's definitely not about shoes and shopping - it's got time-travel in it!

A lot of commercial women's fiction has an underlying theme at the heart that isn't always frothy - to be honest I can't read the 'Sex and the City' type stories, I prefer something laugh-out-loud funny if I'm going to read in that genre, or something with 'issues' underneath the humour. Ciara Geraghty for instance is fabulous at both.

I have a wide reading range, including literary fiction, but must admit I can't stand 'misery memoirs'and yes I have tried a couple!

Still, we'd be a rum lot if we all liked the same things :o)

Bernadette said...

I'm with Karen on the misery memoirs - though I've yet to find one with depth or literary merit (I suppose Angela's Ashes was Ok if that counts) so maybe I have the same 'thing' with them that you have with chick lit.

Even within the more chicky areas of chick lit there are good and bad and someone like Marian Keyes has a lot of humour and does address wider issues. There are a lot of authors in that genre though that I can't stand (naming no names).

But women's contemporary fiction is wider than chick lit. Try a bit of Anne Tyler or Anita Shreve.

Gillian McDade said...

I think also that I lack an understanding of 'women's fiction'. It's probably very wide-ranging in terms of theme, as Rosy, Karen and Bernadette pointed out. I have an Anita Shreve box set filed away in the spare room! I must rip open the cellophane.

Rosy T said...

Anita Shreve and (especially) Anne Tyler are wonderful! But not chick lit, surely? I find it frustrating when the whole range of women's fiction gets reduced to the pinkest common denominator by being lumped under the label of chick lit.

Fidelity said...

I got into reading the genre on account of having a touch of eyestrain and having to leave off the paper books, taking to cassette/cd. I've been through a few but always can't remember much about them after. I even got to reading a few off the paper page and the only one I have felt rewarded by reading has been "Double Wedding" by Patricia Scanlon. It is a very realistic and funny account of two young ladies' courtships and agreement to marry together.

Not much else has come near it but 'Circle of Friends' by Meave B. - god bless her! - is another tolerable novel with fairly interesting realistic character studies.

With those two under your belt I'm pretty sure you could hold your own with any insipid reader who tries to pull a fast one on you and make you feel outside the loop as a serious reader.

Debs Riccio said...

I've been keeping a wide berth from commenting all day as this is such a contentious issue... I KNOW - Chick Lit gets serious!
I don't want to bang on about pink covers and designer shoes/handbags because these books also irritate the heck out of me but sorting out wheat from chav, these would be my (not Chick Lit-but-also-not-'intellectual') recommendations:
'Vince & Joy' Lisa Jewell
'Bet Me' Jenny Crusie
'Love The One You're With' Emily Giffin
'One Day' David Nicholls

Gillian McDade said...

Thanks for the comments/suggestions and I'm glad the debate wasn't too heated!

Roz Morris aka @Roz_Morris . Blog: Nail Your Novel said...

I'm wary of chick-lit as I hate to read things that seem to have been mass-produced for my gender! However I've thoroughly enjoyed Sopie Kinsella and Marian Keyes who are good storytellers and fun writers.
Perhaps less obviously - as there are no spidery sketches of shoes on the cover - is Barabara Trapido. Although my shelves are groaning, I always find room for another Trapido as soon as it comes out. If I need a warm duvet of a read that also tickles my intelligence and seems to tie everything up in a classically pleasing way, she's my girl.

Kat said...

I could have written this article from the opposite pov - I'm a WF reader but not a literary reader!Lol.

I cringe whenever someone says they only read literary books, because to me they sound too superior and intelligent for my tatses - the books not the people who read them - hmm, well maybe both!

Kat said...

Drat, Tastes, not tatses!

Bernadette said...

Rosy, that's just what I was trying to say. I was certainly not suggesting that AT or AS were chick-lit. Far from it.

Chick lit is only a part of what might be called women's contemporary fiction and there's a whole continuum of writing that that starts at the fluffiest of fluffy and ends at the most highbrow of literary. (There's probably a sideways dimension too, but that's getting too hard to explain!)
If you don't like one end of it, move a bit more to the middle (or sideways).

Ann said...

I have made a point to give Celia Aherne a wide berth. I am not into her brand of chick lit. I do love Maeve Binchy though and enjoy this genre esp. when traveling. My reading taste is a mixture. I love the chick lit books like Knits Two,Revenge of the Middle Aged Housewife, etc.

Kath McGurl said...

My brother once gave me a boxed set of Cecilia Ahern books for Christmas. That's your type of book, isn;t it? he said proudly. Um, no. I donated it to the school as a raffle prize in the end.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Hear, hear for Barbara Trapido! Not chick-lit, for sure, but fabulous women's fiction. And Jane Gardam, who is simply brilliant. And Wendy Perriam. And Mavis Cheek...

Sue said...

IMO you can't beat Rosamunde Pilcher for characterisation skills. I love her books - they're not exactly chick-lit but certainly women's fiction. Her 'Winter solstice' was one of those can't-put-down books, but I own and re-read regularly all her novels, long and short.

As for chick-lit.. I turned my nose up for some years, but finally read a Cecelia Ahern, and was very pleasantly surprised. There's a surreality about them that's quite unusual. No shopping or sex, as far as I remember. I didn't much like her first and most popular one (PS I love you) which was much more typical chick-lit, but her later ones are something out of the ordinary.

And yes, Sophia Kinsella, whom I was convinced (due to the covers) wrote rubbish, is actually rather a talented writer. I started with 'The Undomestic Goddess' and loved it, then finally gave in and read some of the Shopaholic books, which were a bit irritating, but also rather fun. Light-weight but good for holiday reading.

For very thought-provokign women's literature, there's always Jodi Picault, another writer whom I put off reading for far too long.