‘9 Novels With Older Female Protagonists’

Photo by Aga Putra on Unsplash

Interesting, older female protagonists are somewhat of a rarity in today’s media. But that tide is beginning to turn. And although there is still a very long way to go, there are more and more tv shows, movies and novels featuring older women. 

The changing role of older women in society

Slowly, but surely, the role of women in society is changing. It is a positive step forward as high profile women are now being used in important campaigns, anti-aging skincare lines and in politics. 

So here’s a round of novels featuring older women. 

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg

Berg often features complex female protagonists in her novels. The Year of Pleasures features Betta Nolan, who relocates to a small town following the death of her husband. Looking for a simpler life, she comes into contact with a number of interesting characters. 

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Four women of various ages visit a beautiful Italian castle. They spend their time discovering what they have in common and come to realise that they are unfulfilled by their lives back home. 

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Three generations of a family find themselves brought together by a crisis. The main character is Penelope Keeting, a woman in her 60s who’s determined to make some significant changes in her life before it’s too late. 

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Dr. Annick Swenson disappears while in the Amazon. Former protege Dr. Marin Singh goes to look for him and finds a conspiracy surrounding a potentially valuable new type of drug.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

A zombie apocalypse story with female characters in leading roles. This gripping story of terror and scientific discovery is was very popular in its publication and lead to a film adaptation. 

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Roseanne McNulty is about to turn one hundred. Hospitalized for much of her adulthood, she remembers stories from her life that are filled with abuse, hope and love. It is a difficult read but well worth it. 

Inheritance From Mother by Minae Mizumura

A story about the relationship between women and their mothers and the inevitability of ageing. . Mitsuki has to deal with her mother’s advancing years and illness while her husband is sleeping with a much younger woman. 

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive is a retired school teacher. With more time on her hands, she is upset that her small town is changing (for the worse). The novel is told in a series of shorter stories and involves such themes as mental health, domestic violence and infidelity. Not as depressing as it sounds, the novel does delve deeper into the strong connections forged between people. 

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! By Jonathan Evison

An ultimately uplifting novel, Evison’s protagonist is a study in warmth and good humour. The story manages to deal with family relationships, love and forgiveness. This is the perfect antidote to many modern novels which seem designed to put the reader through the emotional wringer. 

Final thoughts

Great novels require great characters and unfortunately, great female protagonists, especially older ones, are few and far between. So add these ones to your reading list now. 





  1. September 20, 2021 / 4:06 pm

    I like writing about older female protagonists. They’ve lived a bit and have had more experiences of life than younger women.

    • karensworld.writer
      October 1, 2021 / 3:46 pm

      Very true

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