Staff Picks

                                 Classic Coming of Age Stories - Girls Edition

The Greengage Summer book coverI Capture the Castle book coverA Tree Grows in Brooklyn book cover

I'm a sucker for a coming of age story with an interesting female protagonist.  Here are three of my favorites.

Rumer Godden's The Greengage Summer is narrated by a 13 year old English girl, Cecilia Grey, but its focus is mostly on her older sister Joss.  It's a hot dusty summer in 1958, and the two of them and their three young siblings are left in the care of the staff in a small hotel in rural France (their parents having been conveniently gotten out of the way by the author.)  Enter Eliot, a fellow Brit and hotel guest whose comings and goings are of great interest to the Greys.  Oddly enough, he seems to be just as interested in them as they are in him.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, takes place in 1930s England and unfolds as told by eccentric teenager Cassandra Mortmain.  She tells how she, her beautiful sister Rose, her brother Thomas, and her stepmother Topaz deal with life in the crumbling castle they lease and occupy with their self-obsessed father, a celebrated novelist who suffers from writers' block.  When a wealthy American family, the Cottons, inherit the castle, romances and complications arise.  If you think you can predict what will happen, think again.  There are no neat little bows wrapping up this story.

Francie Nolan is the heroine of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  The story begins in Williamsburg in the summer of 1912 and follows the fortunes of Francie and her impoverished family over the next five years.  Rich with characters and incidents, the novel is remarkable for its depiction of Francie, beautifully chronicling her thoughts and feelings as life happens around her in her family and her neighborhood.  Death and birth, faith, scholarship, fairness and inequality, actions and their consequences, all serve to shape Francie into the young woman she becomes by the novel's end.

A few more classic (some more than others) stories of books about coming of age while female are listed below.

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

Annie On My Mind by nancy Garden

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block