Knowing the esoteric rules of rugby, reaching things on high shelves, being the “big spoon”: Men are good for many things. But writing female characters? Ehhhh….

Here, seven male authors who actually nail a “female” voice. Praise.

Jeffrey Eugenides: “The Marriage Plot”

If you’ve ever read Middlesex, you know Eugenides has the chops to write an intersexual character. But it wasn’t until we devoured his most recent novel, The Marriage Plot, that we were ready to award him with the title of “Writes Women Well.” Protagonist Madeleine is neurotic and smart in a way that feels true. And her self-destructive need to go after “troubled” men hit a little close to home.

Kazuo Ishiguro: “Never Let Me Go”

Clones are people too. Master of the unreliable narrator Kazuo Ishiguro gets so inside the head of his narrator, Kathy, that we almost forget she’s on the fast track to dystopian hell. Instead, we find ourselves obsessing over boys, school and the careful social structure that makes her world so real.

John Green: “The Fault in Our Stars”

It’s hard enough to capture the voice of an angsty teenage girl, let alone one who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. John Green nails it. (When we finished this book, we had to remind ourselves it was actually written by a guy.)


Ian McEwan: “Atonement”

Speaking of teenagers, Atonement’s 13-year-old Briony Tallis seems exactly like a young girl we could know (or might have been). Her wild imagination and childish jealousy put her crime (the one she “atones” for later) into perspective--and as a result we completely believe her as a person.


Tom Perrotta: “Little Children”

There are so many good things about Tom Perrotta’s subversive suburban novel about darker-than-it-seems suburbia--not the least of which is Sarah, a lapsed feminist and bisexual who has no idea how she turned into a common housewife.


Jonathan Franzen: “Freedom”

We have a complicated relationship with Franzen’s female characters--and his attitude toward women in general. But there’s no denying that Patty, the center of the epic Freedom, is a real person, replete with opinions, insecurities and a rather thrilling basketball backstory.


William Shakespeare: “Much Ado About Nothing”

Beatrice. She knows what’s up.

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