The best books featuring strong women and female friendship

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by the extraordinary things ordinary people do, particularly women. Women show such strength; they juggle so many things every day, and they can draw on huge reserves of power in a crisis. Time and time again, I see how when women pull together, they can conquer anything. A woman on her own can do many things, but when we band together, nothing can stop us. So often, others concentrate on the negative aspects of a group of women together, but I have seen the power of female friendship and how we can reach the stars when we hold each other up. 

I wrote...

Escape to the Irish Village

By Ann O’Loughlin,

Book cover of Escape to the Irish Village

What is my book about?

Escape to the beautiful old Killcawley Estate in Ireland, where 75-year-old Judith McCarthy refuses to feel old and makes fashion TikToks. Into her life walks 29-year-old Emma Wilson, who is running from a broken marriage. At Killcawley and the big house overlooking the lake, Emma finds peace and Judith, a new friend.

As Emma and Judith’s lives intertwine, Emma meets Judith’s son Miles, and the two clash. But when the estate and village come under threat, they all band together. New friendships are forged, and secrets are revealed. Can they save the old estate, and will Emma be able to stay in the place she learns to call home? This story is about the power of female friendship, the importance of community, and the magic of second chances.   

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Light a Penny Candle

Ann O’Loughlin Why did I love this book?

I read this book when I was just out of journalism school and finding my way in the world of journalism and writing. For me, Maeve Binchy was already an icon because she managed to juggle journalism and writing. All these years later, I am doing the same, but the seeds were grown back then with this book.

I love this novel's depiction of a three-decade-long friendship between two women. The strength of the female characters shines through, and I remember thinking when I was reading it that was Maeve Binchy’s secret weapon; she made her characters so human. 

This is a story of endurance, love, and the power of friendship. I loved it when it first came out in the '80s, and it gave me heart that books about strong women and the bonds of friendship didn’t necessarily have to have a bright pink cover.

By Maeve Binchy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Light a Penny Candle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beloved author Maeve Binchy's first published novel, an engrossing coming of age tale about the incredible bond of friendship.

To escape the chaos of London during World War II, young Elizabeth White is sent to live a safer life in the small Irish town of Kilgarret. It is there, in the crowded, chaotic O’Connor household, that she meet Aisling—a girl who soon becomes her very best friend, sharing her pet kitten and secretly teaching her the intricacies of Catholicism.

Aisling’s boldness brings Elizabeth out of her proper shell; later, her support carries Elizabeth through the painful end of her parents’…

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice

Ann O’Loughlin Why did I love this book?

The first time I read this book, I was far too young, and it was a chore. Yes, a dreadful thing to admit, but I  returned to it in my late twenties, and it was a different experience. I always make sure to have a copy nearby. Superbly written and full of characters you would wish to have at the next dinner party is how I like to describe this classic.

The dialogue, sharp witticisms, and observations are a joy, as they honestly depict and comment on the social norms of the Regency era in the UK. I love that it is all still so relatable to our own lives. In modern life, we have our fair share of people with notions! I wonder what Jane Austen would have thought of today’s social media whirl?

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked Pride and Prejudice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

Jane Austen's best-loved novel is an unforgettable story about the inaccuracy of first impressions, the power of reason, and above all the strange dynamics of human relationships and emotions.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is illustrated by Hugh Thomson and features an afterword by author and critic, Henry Hitchings.

A tour de force of wit and sparkling dialogue, Pride and…

Book cover of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Ann O’Loughlin Why did I love this book?

This book was published after the demonstration at Tiananmen Square, Beijing which ended in bloodshed. With this book, I felt finally somebody was giving an honest account of life in China in the 20th Century and  under the Chinese Communist Party.

But this is no regular history book; it is Jung Chang’s personal account following the lives of three generations of women in her own family: Jung Chang herself, her mother, and her grandmother. They endured so much, but I was struck by how united and loving they remained. They managed in the face of adversity to keep their humanity, inner strength, and incredible courage.

I felt empowered by these women, from the grandmother who had endured the torture of having her feet bound as a young girl to the author who showed admirable courage to tell us exactly what China was like right up and through the dark years of the Cultural Revolution.

By Jung Chang,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Wild Swans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few books have had such an impact as Wild Swans: a popular bestseller which has sold more than 13 million copies and a critically acclaimed history of China; a tragic tale of nightmarish cruelty and an uplifting story of bravery and survival.

Through the story of three generations of women in her own family - the grandmother given to the warlord as a concubine, the Communist mother and the daughter herself - Jung Chang reveals the epic history of China's twentieth century.

Breathtaking in its scope, unforgettable in its descriptions, this is a masterpiece which is extraordinary in every way.

Book cover of The Alice Network

Ann O’Loughlin Why did I love this book?

This book, a novel that spans two world wars, gripped my heart and made me fully realise how strong women can be in the face of adversity.

I was completely drawn in, and there were plenty of moments to cry, laugh, or gasp at the courage displayed. So often, the contribution of women gets pushed aside, but I felt here it was brought to life in the sacrifices and true grit displayed by the women as we made our way through WW1 and WW2. 

There is a vitality and optimism in this book, which shines through. I loved this story and how it showed that women when they band together can do anything.   These women are definitely on my party invitation list. 

By Kate Quinn,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Alice Network as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women-a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947-are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption. 1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might…

Book cover of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Ann O’Loughlin Why did I love this book?

I love the way this novel brought us behind the scenes in Hollywood. Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life, and the story falls into the lap of reporter Monique.

I read this book during a time of all sorts of revelations about Hollywood’s casting couch. The novel perfectly encapsulates the glamour of film and the tragedy of life, and I also felt a strong woman’s will to keep going.

Interestingly, it moved across two timelines, Evelyn's and Monique’s, but this did not slow the book down. There were also beautiful, poignant moments. I savoured dipping into a world I knew very little about, and I so enjoyed it. 

By Taylor Jenkins Reid,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"If you're looking for a book to take on holiday this summer, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has got all the glitz and glamour to make it a perfect beach read." -Bustle

From the New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & the Six-an entrancing and "wildly addictive journey of a reclusive Hollywood starlet" (PopSugar) as she reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready…

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Book cover of The Spanish Diplomat's Secret

Nev March Author Of The Spanish Diplomat's Secret

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author History lover Scriptwriter Reader Nature lover

Nev's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

An entertaining mystery on a 1894 trans-Atlantic steamship with an varied array of suspects, and a detective who must solve his case in six days to prevent international conflict.

Retired from the British Indian army, Captain Jim is taking his wife Diana to Liverpool from New York, when their pleasant cruise turns deadly. Just hours after meeting him, a foreign diplomat is brutally murdered onboard their ship. Captain Jim must find the killer before they dock in six days, or there could be war! Aboard the beleaguered luxury liner are a thousand suspects, but no witnesses to the locked-cabin crime.

Fortunately, his wife Diana knows her way around first-class accommodations and Gilded Age society. But something has been troubling her, too, something she won’t tell him. Together, using tricks gleaned from their favorite fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Jim, and Diana must learn why one man’s life came to a murderous end.

By Nev March,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spanish Diplomat's Secret as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Spanish Diplomat's Secret, award-winning author Nev March explores the vivid nineteenth-century world of the transatlantic voyage, one passenger’s secret at a time.

Captain Jim Agnihotri and his wife Lady Diana Framji are embarking to England in the summer of 1894. Jim is hopeful the cruise will help Diana open up to him. Something is troubling her, and Jim is concerned.

On their first evening, Jim meets an intriguing Spaniard, a fellow soldier with whom he finds an instant kinship. But within twenty-four hours, Don Juan Nepomuceno is murdered, his body discovered shortly after he asks rather urgently to…

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