Our pick of female writers who made literary waves in 2020

The whirlwind that is 2020 is coming to end. We remember the highs and the lows of this strange year of COVID-19, and how much our lives have changed.

For some of us, being stuck at home for months on end meant we had more time on our hands to fit in some reading.

Lockdown Reading Habits

Whether you were a full-on bookworm before the lockdown and continued your reading pace as normal, or were forced by boredom to dip into the dusty stack of unread books in the corner, lockdowns around have affected reading and readers immensely.

According to some estimates, in the UK alone, people read up to 60% more than they did before the lockdown.

The Guardian similarly found that the time people spent reading has more than doubled since 2019, calling the lockdowns of 2020 the “plot twist” libraries needed.

The best female writers of 2020

With many more people having turned to books for comfort in 2020, The South African has compiled a list of four female writers’ books that have made waves, been best-sellers and have crept deep into our hearts.

Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell

Winner of the Women’s Prize, Hamnet tells the heart-breaking story of loss, love and life lives four centuries ago. It is a fictionalised account of the short life of Hamnet, William Shakespeare’s son and pulls the reader into one family’s journey with grief and loss.

Described by The Guardian as “evidence that there are always new stories to tell, even about the most well-known historical figures”, Hamnet has become one of the standout books of 2020.

Maggie O'Farrell's HAMNET has been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award! Find out more here—first round voting ends November 8! https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-historical-fiction-books-2020

Posted by Maggie O'Farrell on Friday, November 6, 2020

The Shadow King’ by Maaza Mengiste

Included in the Booker Prize Shortlist, The Shadow King is an honest exploration of the role and lives of female soldiers fighting in the Ethiopian invasion of 1935.

It is a literary success of the reclaiming of female stories and experiences told through beautiful and lyrical prose, and it is a book that will stay with you long after you have read the final page.

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The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste, was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Image: Supplied

Piranesi‘ by Susanna Clarke

Coming 16 years after her bestselling literary debut, Piranesi is Clarke’s most recent novel and it quickly became a 2020 bestseller.

It follows the story of a man named Piranesi, who is trapped inside a place called the House, which is a seemingly infinite maze of halls, rooms and darkness. With only the ocean outside and a mysterious Other to keep him company inside, Piranesi writes down and records a life lived in solitude.

After becoming aware of inconsistencies in his own journals and his understanding of his existence, Piranesi slowly begins to question his reality.

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Author Susanna Clarke, right, and her bestseller, ‘Piranesi’. Image: Supplied

Justine Jordon of The Guardian describes the book as a “fantastical parable of solitude, imagination, ambition and contentment is a spectacular piece of fiction, and the perfect reading accompaniment to a year like no other”.

‘Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation’ by Anne Helen Petersen

Some readers prefer the orderliness and calm that comes from reading non-fiction rather than fiction.

This non-fiction book comes from the mind of Anne Peterson and is a spin-off of her Buzzfeed article that went viral.

Peterson makes the reader question their understanding of millennial culture and explores the forces which have created a much-maligned generation that feels disempowered and dispossessed.

Told through caustic wit and hilarious prose, this work of sharp cultural criticism lays bare the true extent — and toll — of modern living.

When No One is Watching’ by Alyssa Cole

This 2020 release became an instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller, and a firm favourite among readers world wide.

When No One is Watching is a gripping psychological thriller from the critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alyssa Cole.

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Alyssa Cole and her book, ‘When No One is Watching’. Image: Supplied

It follows the story of Sydney Green, a woman determined to stop the changes happening in her beloved neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York.

She fights against the condos popping up all around her and the “For Sale” signs that are sprouting like weeds.

After finding an assistant in the newbie to the neighbourhood, Theo, Sydney discovers that her and Theo’s desire to hold on to the past by diving into history is not as innocent or as safe as she had thought.  

Confidence turns to conspiracy and fondness turns to fear as Sydney is faced with questions: When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? And can she and Theo trust each other or themselves long enough to find out before they, too, disappear?

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