good fiction about 45-55 year old women?

(65 Posts)
marriedtothecat Fri 20-Sep-13 16:05:21

Hello there. Can anyone suggest some accessible women's fiction (not too heavy/literary) featuring a woman in her late forties/fifties? I feel that there's a gap between chick lit/stories about having babies etc, and the books aimed at the silver-haired generation.

Forester Fri 20-Sep-13 16:11:28

Eloise by Judy Finnigan. I think the main character was in this age bracket.

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 20-Sep-13 16:12:56

If you're happy with mid-twentieth century try Barbara Pym.

If you are ok with literary-but-not-too-heavy try Charlotte Mendelson.

outragedofsuburbia Fri 20-Sep-13 16:15:43

The Agatha Raison series of books by MC Beaton. She starts off being 53.

marriedtothecat Fri 20-Sep-13 16:30:04

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm wondering if you all feel that there is rather a lack of contemporary women's fiction in this area though? I feel there is, but am happy to be proved wrong! There are so many issues affecting this age group (ageing parents/children leaving home and, yes, menopause, ugh) but 45-55s seem to be classed along with the 60-plus lot in that rather patronising "oh look, you can still have a second chance at life" sort of way..

marriedtothecat Fri 20-Sep-13 16:32:00

I like the look of the Charlotte Mendelson books though - thanks for that!

Elizabeth Berg, Never Change

HandragsAndGladbags Fri 20-Sep-13 16:38:27

The Ladykiller by Martina Cole

highlandcoo Fri 20-Sep-13 17:29:19

Joanna Trollope often features women of this age in her fiction.

The Red House by Mark Haddon tells the story of a mid-age brother and sister and their respective families who rent a holiday house together following the death of their mother.

Some interesting female characters in Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency too.

And then there are all the Persephone books, Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple being one of the best known, but there are loads.

Jeremiad Fri 20-Sep-13 17:30:31

At Sea, by Laurie Graham. In fact, anything at all by Laurie Graham. She's hilarious, and a genius. But 'At Sea' should be available on prescription.

DuchessofMalfi Fri 20-Sep-13 18:49:32

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Bernadette's 50ish.

I love love loved 'where dyou go Bernadette' - it's great.

I liked Jk row longs casual vacancy - men and women of all ages but she does the middle aged women particularly well I think.

Rowling - sorry

BigPawsBrown Fri 20-Sep-13 22:10:41

Someone else's wedding by Tamar Cohen

Thursdays in the park

Anything by Elizabeth noble

Foosyerdoos Fri 20-Sep-13 22:27:51

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend. I found it funny and very moving.

valiumredhead Fri 20-Sep-13 22:37:35

Was just about to suggest the woman who went to bed for a year.

Personally I thought Eloise was the worst book I've ever read, it was like an 11 year old's attempt at an essay. Can't believe her editor let that be published!

valiumredhead Fri 20-Sep-13 22:37:56

Sorry Forestergrin

penguinpaperback Fri 20-Sep-13 23:40:25

Yes there is a gap...I'm in the 45-55 group. :-) How about Anne Tyler, the late Carol Shields, Alice Munro or Tessa Hadley? All cover family life but tend to be more centred on children in their late teens, or who have left home, married. Others, William Trevor, Elizabeth Taylor or Elizabeth Bowen.

Quangle Sat 21-Sep-13 00:08:15

Margaret Forster is v good for this space. I read 'Have the men had enough?' years ago and it's still with me.

Quangle Sat 21-Sep-13 00:12:23

But yes you have a good point OP. the 'great American novelists' have male protagonists this age, still having affairs because they are, of course, so desirable...

Many fewer women characters that I can think of. Perhaps Anita Brookner's characters are this age but they are all dreary, lonely ladies who take rooms in hotels and look at the curtains thoughtfully, if I recall correctly.

timidviper Sat 21-Sep-13 00:12:38

There is an age gap. I have never realised that but probably because I read more crime type stories that are not particularly female-focussed.

I hated The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, thought every character in it was a self-indulgent twat. Sorry

Stravy Sat 21-Sep-13 00:14:08

I'm writing one. It will be ready in 10 years (optimistic estimate)

AlisonClare Sat 21-Sep-13 11:12:12

'Family Album' - Penelope Lively.

AlisonClare Sat 21-Sep-13 11:17:30

'Breathing Lessons' - Anne Tyler

blurb from back cover: 'Breathing Lessons covers the events of a day in the life of Maggie Moran, nearing fifty, married to Ira with two children. Her eternal optimism and her inexhaustible passion for sorting out other people's lives and willing them to fall in love is severely tested one hot summer day...'

Just re-read it. Loved it completely.

marriedinwhiteisback Sat 21-Sep-13 11:23:07

Anita Brookner. Also Patricia Atkinson's biographical books about making a success of a vineyard in Provence after her husband left her at the beginning of his dream.

AlisonClare Sat 21-Sep-13 11:25:41

Doesn't quite fit the bill - but 'The Parasites' by Daphne du Maurier might also be worth looking at. Mid life ennui/crisis amongst privileged siblings.

GerardButlersSecretLover Sat 21-Sep-13 11:30:58

84 Charing Cross Road fits into this.......... A middle aged lady corresponding with a man who works in a bookshop. Then the sequel The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street!

DancingLady Sat 21-Sep-13 13:12:10

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud is fantastic. She's in her 40s, and not 'likeable' but a fascinating character.

Have you looked at the Persephone Books list? www.persephonebooks.co.uk/books/ Lots of fantastic stuff on there.

Quangle Sat 21-Sep-13 20:57:40

gerardbutler v good suggestion re 84 Charing Cross Road and sequel. I love those books.

GerardButlersSecretLover Sat 21-Sep-13 21:08:13

Quangle I got an old copy which combined both books. Helene Hanff got to meet my idol Joyce Grenfell!
The film is fab too!

marriedtothecat Sun 22-Sep-13 16:58:19

Thanks again for these suggestions. I will look again at Anne Tyler and Anita Brookner, but I do agree with Quangle that some books people perceive to be for the 45-55 are often really about women in quite a different stage of life - ie they tend to depict single women trying to 'find themselves or escape dull marriages, not those still struggling to juggle jobs/teenage kids/aging parents etc..
I read THursdays in the Park, for example, but it was about someone in their sixties, with grandchildren. I'm nearly 50, but still have teenage children at home and certainly don't see myself as a grandmother any time soon, nor do I want to read about being one particularly!
anyway, all useful material.. thank you all!

AlansCatalanCat Mon 23-Sep-13 12:09:56

I don't care about the age or gender of characters in novels. As long as they're interesting and it's a good story well written, I couldn't give the proverbial whether the main character is an young girl, an old man, a middle-aged gay man or whatever.

Takver Tue 24-Sep-13 09:00:24

I was going to suggest the VI Warshawski novels by Sara Paretsky. I'm pretty sure she is in her mid - late 40s for most of the series. She's divorced with no children though, and her problems generally involve dead people / industrial espionage rather than aging parents/teenage kids grin.

Takver Tue 24-Sep-13 09:07:13

Just realised, the Diary of a Provincial Lady books might appeal - in the first one she would be about 40 and has young children, they grow up over the series.

Judyastley Wed 25-Sep-13 16:39:29

I've written 18 published contemporary novels (as Judy Astley - all available via Transworld publishers or Amazon) and I don't thing there's one of them that DOESN'T feature a woman from 45-55 as a main character (possibly not the first two of mine maybe, but then I was younger then!). Also, have a look at Fanny Blake and Elizabeth Buchan's books. Best wishes to all and happy reading.

Judyastley Wed 25-Sep-13 16:39:57

*think not *thing. Derrr.

MaddAddam Thu 26-Sep-13 22:24:58

Judy, I've enjoyed your books smile

Some Helen Simpson stories are about women of this age.

Also there's Deborah Moggach, Margaret Drabble, Barbara Kingsolver, I think they all write about women of this age, among others.

My latest favourite books about a woman of this age are The year of the Flood and Maddaddam (where my username is from) by Margarat Atwood - Toby is that age and she's the central character in both books, though she isn't juggling work and children or eldercare, she's busy coping with dystopia etc.

aoife24 Sun 29-Sep-13 18:57:11

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. A middle-aged woman has an affair...

ScarerAndFuck Sun 29-Sep-13 20:10:53

Carol Shields book Happenstance is very good. It's actually two stories in one, both told over the same five days, one from the POV of the husband and the other from the POV of the wife.

It's set in the '70's in Chicago and Philadelphia and covers the trip Brenda Bowman makes to a craft convention, where one of her quilts is up for an award, and Jack is left at home to take care of their teenage children.

There's so much more to it, Jack feels like his time spent writing his novel has been wasted, Brenda feels like she is not being taken seriously as a woman or a person, they both have to make decisions about their marriage and it's just a very good book with very good characters.

I second Apple Tree Yard. It's the book I came on to recommend. One to make you think.

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 30-Sep-13 16:41:35

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 30-Sep-13 16:57:12

What about the Vera Stanhope detective series by Ann Cleeves? I have not read any of them (on my to read list) but I have read her Shetland series which I really enjoyed.

bunnybing Mon 30-Sep-13 22:18:49

Carol Shield's Unless is v good - one of the best books ever imo. Patrick Gale's books usually feature a cast of characters including middle-aged women

NoComet Mon 30-Sep-13 22:25:43

As a 45y woman, I can assure you it would be unspeakably dull.

Dumpylump Mon 30-Sep-13 22:29:57

I recently read "Life, Death and Vanilla Slices" by Jenny Eclair, and really enjoyed it. It wasn't what I'd expected at all.

ModeratelyObvious Mon 30-Sep-13 22:31:23

The mother in We Need To Talk About Kevin
Brittle Joys, Sara Maitland
Early 40s but Isabel Dalhousie

NotCitrus Mon 30-Sep-13 22:59:30

Christopher Brookmyre's All fun and games until ...
Also various of his other novels, though not as the protagonist.

racingheart Mon 30-Sep-13 23:15:24

The Making of her by Susie Nott Bower - about a woman aged 50 iirc who goes up for one of those TV makeover programmes.

MotherOfSoupDragon Mon 07-Oct-13 17:53:43

Love Jenny Eclair's books. Also enjoyed many of Judy Astley's.

ireadnovels Mon 07-Oct-13 19:55:57

Amanda Prowse novels appeal to all woman of all ages. Clovers Child by Amanda Prowse and What have I done by Amanda Prowse. Yew Tree Gardens by Anna Jacobs is another author who is adored by so many readers of all ages. I am 50 and love Amanda Prowse and Anna Jacobs novels.

tumbletumble Fri 11-Oct-13 18:43:15

Have you tried Joanna Trollope? I think Second Honeymoon, Best of Friends, The Other Family or The Rector's Wife might fit the bill.

Also How to be Good by Nick Hornby.

I was also going to say Back When We Were Grownups but I see several people have already suggested Anne Tyler.

HilaryM Fri 11-Oct-13 20:18:13

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty is a brilliant cross-genre lit fiction psychological courtroom drama with the main protagonist in her early 50s. SO good.

notnowImreading Fri 11-Oct-13 20:24:27

Umm...the new Bridget Jones? Bridget is 51. Mavis Cheek's novels are funny and sweet too.

Housesellerihope Fri 11-Oct-13 20:30:17

I loved Apple Tree Yard. It's one of those books I'm still thinking about months after reading it. I also love Anita Brookner.

On a lighter note I just finished The Nearest Thing to Crazy which is a psychological thriller whose narrator is juggling a mother in a care home and a daughter at uni.

notagiraffe Fri 11-Oct-13 20:42:48

There's a few literary novels about women that age having affairs with much younger men:
Cheri and The Last of Cheri by Colette;
The Way I Found Her by Rose Tremain;
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.

Still on the subject of women in mid life falling in love with young men or boys:
Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller.
The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken (gorgeous book.)
Trumpet by Jackie Kay is narrated by an older woman (may be older than 45-55.)

All the Vera series novels by Ann Cleeves

Lighthousekeeping Thu 17-Oct-13 22:51:32

The Woman who went to Bed has a terrible ending.

GatoradeMeBitch Thu 17-Oct-13 23:20:55

Virginia Ironside? She's not a novelist as far as I know, but I enjoy her writing, especially 'Why growing old is great', and 'No! I don't want to join a bookclub'.

hellymelly Thu 17-Oct-13 23:30:29

I was going to suggest the Persephone Books and Anne Tyler but others have beat me to it. I'll be watching with interest though, as at 49,(+ having recently lost my Dad, dealing with my Mum who is in a care home near me, and juggling that with a 6 year old and an 8 year old) I would like to read more about this age-group. Fifty seems such a huge jump, looming ahead shortly, with menopause etc to come. I need fiction to prop me up!

susieangela Sun 10-Nov-13 21:25:15

Thanks, Racingheart, for suggesting my novel, The Making of Her. It's about three 50 year olds - an ambitious television producer, an abandoned wife and a reclusive rock star - whose lives are changed irrevocably during the production of an extreme makeover show. It asks whether change comes from the inside out or from the outside in. If anyone would like to write a review on mumsnet, I'd be happy to send a copy - first come, first served!

Nepotism Sun 10-Nov-13 21:58:58

Mutton, by India Knight. One of those books I feel I should have written if only I had any talent!

Louise1956 Wed 13-Nov-13 22:52:02

Agree The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year was awful. I thought her husband should have chucked her out of bed. can't think why everyone kept indulging the silly creature.

The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam is about a woman who is in her forties, very entertaining story.

I think Mma Ramotswe in The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series is about forty, not sure about that.

Jane in Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym is in her forties, that is a good book, great characters and very amusing. the two sisters in Some Tame Gazelle are in their fifties I think.

ireadnovels Mon 27-Jan-14 17:03:20

I have just finished The Secret Kiss of Darkness by Christina Courtenay. Published by Choc-Lit. I loved every page. For me it was an escape from the normal romantic stories that I read. This story is interwoven with two romance stories set in two different times. London 2013 Kayla Sinclair is about to get married and has been left fifteen thousand pounds from her Auntie. Kayla buys a Life-size painting of a man in the eighteen-century from Sotherby's for eighteen thousand pounds.
The second storie is set in Devon in 1781. Jago Kerswell who mother was a Gypsy. Jago is an Innkeeper who meets up with Lady Eliza who is married to Jago's half brother. Jago and Eliza start seeing each other in secret.
The two stories come together. The secret Kiss of Darkness is full of romance, Ghost, Gypsy fortune-telling and talking paintings.

DandyDan Wed 29-Jan-14 20:55:40

Gillespie & I - by Jane Harris

snozzlemaid Thu 30-Jan-14 20:11:14

Tangled Lives by Hilary Boyd.

Levantine Thu 30-Jan-14 20:15:38

Clever girl by Tessa Hadley. Terrible title, but it's a great book

Pretty much anything by Anne Tyler, Joanna Trollope, Elizabethe Buchan, Jane Gardam, Anita Shreve.

Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville; I'd never have thought a book about quilts and bridges could be so wonderful smile

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