Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Elena Ferrante

Keep Reading! Book Series You’ll Never Want to Finish


There’s nothing more satisfying than a good book; one that weaves a story around memorable characters that we grow to love or hate, root for or cry for, and always feel connected to.  These are the books that are so good we dread finishing them ­– dragging our feet to the ending, always keeping track of how many pages are left, even putting the book down to delay the inevitable.  But there’s good news: some books keep on going.  In fact, many great character driven stories are part of a multi-book series.

True, there are plenty of books (mainly detective or spy novels) that have recurring characters, but each of those can also be read on their own.  What we love are books that pick up where the last left book off – the series – where you can’t cut the line. You must start at the beginning with Book One and be prepared for the characters to grow up and grow old with each successive tale.

Here are five of our favorites:

Masie Dobbs by Jacqueline Windspear tells the 14-book (so far) continuing story of Masie Dobbs, who we first meet as a young maid in an aristocratic London home.  The series follows Masie as her education is sponsored by her employer, as she becomes a nurse sent to the front lines in France during WWI, at the loss of her first love, during her career as a private investigator turned sometime spy at the beginning of WWII, where Masie secrets herself into Germany for the British government.  Well written and always engrossing, each book is highly anticipated by Windspear’s many fans.

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati.  This 3-generation family saga begins during the French and Indian Wars in Upstate New York.  The series revolves around the protagonist, Elizabeth Middleton Bonner, an English schoolteacher who comes to New York State to open a school.  Her marriage to Nathaniel Bonner, a backwoods man who was brought up among the Mohawk Indians, provides many opportunities for Donati to weave fascinating tales of love, loss, hardship, unlikely friendships, and redemption.  If you liked the Outlander series, you will love the Into the Wilderness series.

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. If you’ve seen the series on Starz, you are in for a real treat – the books are better than the TV series!  Time traveler, Claire Randall Fraser, is married in the 20th Century to Frank Randall, descendant of Black Jack Randal, enemy of her 18th Century husband, Jaime Fraser.  The Outlander series is a long, sweeping saga (8 books, so far) that follows Claire and Jaime during the Scottish rebellion, the War of Independence and the newly formed United States.  It’s a story of true love, most of all, with scandal, intrigue, violence and heartbreak mixed into one long, fantastic read.


The Century Trilogy is Ken Follett’s historical epic about 5 families from Europe and the US, whose lives intertwine during WWI, the Russian Revolution, WWII, woman’s suffrage, Vietnam, politics on all levels, and even the Kennedy Assassination.  Always historically accurate with richly developed characters, the trilogy is a spectacular review of the events of the twentieth century brought to life.

Elena Ferrante’s, The Neapolitan Novels, are a quartet of stories about 2 friends, Lila and Elena, growing up in post- war Naples.  Spanning almost 60 years, the story follows the two friends through school, love, marriage, and conflict.  The books pull no punches; we see a raw and honest portrayal of life in a sometimes violent, but always family centric neighborhood.  A love-hate relationship between the two protagonists propels the story to its satisfying end.

Five Great Reads for Mother’s Day


Maternal bonds have always been one of the most enduring themes in literature.  With Mother’s Day coming up let’s take a look at these examples of important mother-child stories.

The Good Mother by Sue Miller (1986) Recent divorcee Anne Dunlap lives for two things; her young daughter Molly and her lover Leo the first man to awaken sexual passion in her. But then her relationship with Leo is used against her by her ex-husband in the custody battle for Molly.  Miller examines how society has such rigid attitudes towards maternity and remains uncomfortable with the idea of mothers as sexual, autonomous beings in their own right.  In 1988 it was adapted into a movie starring Liam Neeson and Diane Keaton.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987) Set after the American Civil War, this devastating novel of grief and guilt examines the legacy of slavery through the story of Sethe an escaped slave who slays her own child rather than allow her to be re-enslaved. It was a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and is now part of the canon and assigned in lots of college classes.  The 1998 film adaption stars Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989) Focusing on four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco you get three mothers and four daughters, (the final mother dies before the novel begins,) and their relationships with one another examining how the past is never the past and how trauma can echo across generations. It was a widely praised best seller that spawned a movie adaption in 1993.

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante (2006) Middle aged divorcee Leda is alone for the first time after her daughters go to live with their father. Initially exhilarated by her sense of freedom an encounter with a young family prompts serious introspection as Leda considers whether she should have even had children in the first place.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (2014) Single mom Jess Thomas has two jobs and two demanding children. But her (possible) salvation comes in the form of tech millionaire Geeky Ed whose house she cleans and who offers to help drive her family to the Math Olympiad so her genius daughter can compete. But Geeky Ed has issues of his own, this is yet another comedy/romance from the author of Me Before You. 

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