Everyone knows the heroic story of Theseus in the labyrinth, and how Ariadne helped him to defeat the terrifying Minotaur. Yet with this act of bravery, a betrayal of her tyrannous royal father, Ariadne's story is only beginning. The epic tales of ancient poets rarely pause to consider her sacrifice, or what it meant to leave behind her Cretan home and family. Lost in a new kind of labyrinth, Ariadne must quickly learn what it means to be a woman, and a mortal, in a world ruled over by men and gods.
Rating: 4.5 stars Genre: Literary, Historical Fiction Summary: When Ada fails to conceive a child with her new husband, she becomes increasingly desperate. Barren women in her village are often hanged as witches. Fearing that she is cursed, neighbours start refusing to let her attend their births, meaning she can no longer put her expertise as a midwife to use. Frustrated and afraid, Ada runs away to find refuge with a band of outlaws and their charismatic leader known only as the Kid. In this makeshift and marginalised family, women like Ada are finding power beyond the status of their wombs - and taking revenge on the society that has rejected them.
In 1980, Elise follows her lover Connie from London to LA, where Connie’s novel is being adapted into a major film. Their stormy love affair will leave its mark on the city. Three decades later, Rose is on the trail of the mother who left when she was a baby. The only clue she has is a book by elusive novelist Constance Holden, who may hold the key to why her mother left everything behind.
Rating: 4 stars Genre: Literary fiction, magical realism Summary: When David sets out in his fishing boat from the island of Black Conch, on a morning that seems the same as any other, the last thing he expects is to come face-to-face with a mermaid. He always thought such creatures existed only in rumour and legend, but here one stares at his boat in the vulnerable reality of flesh and blood, and he must step in to protect her when American tourists arrive for a hunting trip like no other. David nurtures trust and then love between himself and the mermaid, desperate to carve out a life for them among the richness and darkness of his island home. Yet it remains to be seen whether this fusion of woman and myth can ever be his to hold onto.
Black History Month may be over, but the process of decolonising our bookshelves shouldn't be. It all starts with where we get our book recommendations! With that in mind, I've compiled a list of reading recs from black feminists including Roxane Gay, Candice Carty-Williams, Laverne Cox, Renni Eddo-Lodge, Bernardine Evaristo, and Janet Mock. Whether you're into historical fiction or powerful memoirs, there's something for everyone...
Maurice Hall appears to be the prototype of the English gentleman - educated at a prestigious school, he will inevitably go on to study at Cambridge then take his place alongside London's wealthy financiers. Yet when he falls in love with a fellow male student at Cambridge, Maurice feels the ground of convention pulled from beneath his feet. He is forced to make an agonising decision: betray his true self in exchange for a place in polite society, or risk turning his back on this safe and familiar world to live authentically.
Rating: 3.5 stars Genre: Non-fiction Summary: The USA is perceived as one of the most powerful countries in the world, yet it also has one of the highest maternal death rates. And those rates, already high, skyrocket if you happen to be a woman of colour, a gay or trans parent, or a working-class mother. In Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women, Lyz Lenz pulls apart these grim statistics to reveal just how harmful our cultural myths of motherhood have become. From diminishing access to safe abortion, to the policing of pregnant bodies and the stigma of postnatal depression, the intimate and private act of creating a child has been dragged into the public arena for politicians to debate and everyone else to gossip over, or have an opinion about. Belabored is a furiously feminist manifesto that, finally, puts pregnant people, their bodies, and their choices at the centre.
Rating: 3.5 stars Genre: Historical fiction Summary: Dorothea has enough of her own worries - trying to continue her studies of phrenology under the disapproving eye of her father, dodging her simpering stepmother-to-be at society balls, and dissuading men with matrimonial hopes. Yet when visiting a woman's prison on charitable errands, she feels drawn to the tragic story of Ruth Butterham, a maid and seamstress condemned to death for the murder of her mistress. Ruth is an enigma, a girl of only sixteen who has already endured a lifetime of suffering. Always refusing to become a victim, this young prisoner holds onto a burning core of vengefulness that allures and repels Dorothea in equal measure. Is Ruth guilty, or is her confession the product of her own disturbing delusions?