THE BELL JAR BY SYLVIA PLATH
Favorite Line: "I knew that’s what marriage was like, because cook and clean and wash was just what Buddy Willard’s mother did from morning till night...and I knew in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered on a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard’s kitchen mat"(85).
The Bell Jar is something everyone, and especially every woman, needs to read. While Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel touches upon mental illness, it is truly the story of a young woman struggling to find her place in 1950’s America. Esther Greenwood is disenchanted with the confining expectations for women, yet simultaneously, she’s dangerously unsure of what path she wants her life to take. Women from any generation can empathize with Esther’s uncertainty, as well as the pressure she feels to succumb to the cult of domesticity. --Rachel Ehrenberg
THE HANDMAID'S TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD
Favorite Line: "Don't let the bastards grind you down."
While dystopian fiction is very much "in vogue" at the moment, Atwood pushes the genre past the more-recent post-apocalyptic plot lines, drawing on extreme religious beliefs to create a strange, misogynistic environment. In the world of Atwood's dystopia, written in 19XX, women cannot read, write, or do much else aside from bearing children. Their value comes from the quality of their ovaries. Births are experienced by all and insubordination is combatted with public hangings. It's horrifying in a way that The Hunger Games could never be because it doesn't seem that far-fetched. --Emily Holland
THE WOMAN DESTROYED BY SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR
Favorite Line: "...me so vital alive a burning flame and him stuffy middle-class cold hearted prick like limp macaroni."
Simone’s narrative draws upon the feminist theories in her famous philosophical text, The Second Sex. The Woman Destroyed is divided into three parts, each from the perspective of a woman experiencing troubles relating to age, her husband's mistress, the loss of passion, and other intertwined mostly female issues. The book not only depicts the lives of the three women, but also reveals their deepest thoughts with an honesty that, at times, is brutal to read. --Morgan Day
WASHINGTON SQUARE BY HENRY JAMES
Favorite Line:“Poor Catherine's dignity was not aggressive; it never sat in state; but if you pushed far enough you could find it. Her father had pushed very far.”
While Washington Squareis certainly not a feel-good, warm fuzzy read, it does leave the reader incredibly satisfied and vindicated. Catherine Sloper, initially the epitome of a Plain-Jane, is viewed as undesirable for marriage with the exception of her sizable trust fund. Morris Townsend, a slimy, opportunistic man views Catherine as a vulnerable target and begins to court her, much to the chagrin of her equally repugnant father. Both men attempt to use Catherine for their own ends, however they vastly underestimate her. Catherine is the most unlikely heroine, yet her small victories over the manipulative men in her life make her one of the most endearing protagonists. --Cherylann Pasha