Translated fiction

10 Wonderful Books By Women In Translation

It’s August so it must be Women in Translation month.

This year, founder and host of #WITMonth, Meytal at Biblibio, is building a list of the top 100 women in translation.

Although I haven’t read anywhere near as many women writers in translation as I’d like, I still managed to find 10 that I recommend.

The Murder Of Halland by Pia Juul (Danish)

An enigmatic novel that demonstrates how Nordic fiction isn’t all about “noir.” Though crime does features, the discovery of a body is simply a trigger for the dead man’s wife to re-evaluate her marriage, her relationship with friends and with her estranged daughter.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Korean)

The Vegetarian

A startling and disturbing novella of a Korean housewife who decides to stop eating meat. Her decision puts her at opposition to her family and her culture and on a path to mental collapse

Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyung-sook (Korean)

Shin Kyung-sook

The children of one elderly Korean woman are forced to re-examine their relationship with their mother when she goes missing in a crowded metro station.

Fear and Trembling by Amélie Nothomb (Belgian)

Amelie Nothomb

An unusual novel of the difficulties faced by a young girl when she begins to work in a Japanese multinational company and doesn’t understand the rules.

The Blue Room by Hanne Ørstavik (Norwegian)

The Blue Room

Another gem from Peirene. This one looks at the difficult relationship between a mother who likes to be in control and a daughter who wants her freedom.

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (French)


Parents intent on building a successful career. A nanny who seems too perfect to be true. Two children in her care. What could possibly go wrong?

The Quest for Christa T by Christa Wolf (German)

A fascinating portrait of an East German woman from her childhood at the end of World War 2 until her early death in a 1960s Communist state. 

Beside The Sea by Veronique Olmi (French)

A mother’s love for her children and her fears of letting them go out into the world are brought vividly to life.

Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto

Goodbye Tsugumi

Two old friends re-unite one summer. A chance to re-kindle their relationship and remember the idyllic times they spent together. But their lives are set on different courses.

The Housekeeper And The Professor by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa

Quietly understated tale of a wise old man who leads a younger mind to enlightenment. 

What women in translation books would you recommend? I’m particularly interested in authors from Asia or South America.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

27 thoughts on “10 Wonderful Books By Women In Translation

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  • I liked the Pia Juul, too, particularly the way it pushed back against the conventional tropes of the crime fiction genre. It’s good to see it featured here.

  • Interesting list which provides good inspiration! I like the sound of Goodbye Tsugumi. Being from Scandinavia, I appreciate you have included no less than two books from the region!

      • I like that you are featuring literature from different parts of the world, that is a great idea! I had a quick look at the post about Danish authors. The blogger has a much better insight into the current literature scene than I do, but I would probably add Lene Kaaberboel and Peter Hoegh to contemporary authors and Soren Kierkegaard, Karen Blixen and Tove Ditlevsen to the classics.

        Generally, I love Scandi crime, Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesboe being amongst my favourites.

  • My favorite of these is Ogawa’s. I need to do my list. And I realize that since the end of last year #WITMonth, I have read 18 hat fit, better than I thought

    • I bet your list will include a lot that I have not heard of

  • I ‘ve read a couple of those, Beside the Sea is so memorable. I have wondered whether I would like Lullaby.

    • It’s not a book that you can ‘enjoy’ in a sense but appreciate , yes absolutely

  • I didn’t get on with The Vegetarian as much as other readers but LOVED The Blue Room.

    • I’ve yet to read Han Kang’s other novel, Human Acts. Have you?

      • No but I have it and will get to it eventually!

  • I only read Lullaby in your list. Hope I could find some of the other titles.

    • Good luck with your search Arlene. You should be able to get decent second hand copies on The Book Depository

  • We share a few similar titles, Karen. I’m planning on reading The Vegetarian this month, do will be interesting to see if I like it. Have read so many polarised reviews of it. I suspect it’s a bit of a Marmite book.

    • So true about The Vegetarian. I’ll watch out for your reaction with great interest

  • Judy Krueger

    I have read The Vegetarian. A Chinese novel by a woman I have wanted to read but haven’t yet: THE LAST LOVER BY CAN XUE, TRANSLATED BY ANNELISE FINEGAN WASMOEN. I have read OUT by Natsuo Kirino, a wild bit of crime fiction that won Japan’s Grand Prix. The translation was a finalist for the Edgar Award.

      • Noted, and added to the ever lengthening wish list Kim, thanks

    • Kim also recommended Out. I’ve not heard of The Last Lover – off to take a closer look now

  • Kaggsysbookishramblings

    Interesting how many Peirene books keep turning up! For South American authors Silvina Ocampo and Clarice Lispector are good choices!

    • I have one book by Lispector but haven’t got around to that yet…..thanks for the recommendation of Ocampo


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