Women, Books, and Oscar: 10 Brilliant Books That Gave Women Excellent Roles

March 3 2014
Share Women, Books, and Oscar: 10 Brilliant Books That Gave Women Excellent Roles

Okay, I know Bette Davis didn’t actually win for Of Human Bondage but it’s such a great performance she should have – everyone said so.  From Meryl’s tortured Sophie and Nicole’s right-on-the-nose portrayal of Virgina Woolf to Shirley Maclaine’s “Give my daughter her medicine!” and Maggie’s Smith’s blonde hair, scarves and brogue of Miss Brodie to the tortured performances of Kathy Bates in Misery and Kate Winslet in The Reader and the effervescent wackiness of JenniferLawrence in Silver Linings every actress in this list had a career-making turn in her part-based-on-a-book. Each of these woman captured their character so well you only see see their performance now when you read the book.

Of Human Bondage
by W. Somerset Maugham

The story of Philip Carey, a sensitive orphan born with a club foot who is eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief spell in Paris as a would-be artist, he settles in London to train as a doctor where he meets Mildred, the loud but irresistible waitress with whom he plunges into a tortured and masochistic affair. There is no more powerful story of sexual infatuation, of human longing for connection and freedom.

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Of Human Bondage
W. Somerset Maugham

The story of Philip Carey, a sensitive orphan born with a club foot who is eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief spell in Paris as a would-be artist, he settles in London to train as a doctor where he meets Mildred, the loud but irresistible waitress with whom he plunges into a tortured and masochistic affair. There is no more powerful story of sexual infatuation, of human longing for connection and freedom.

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Sophie's Choice
by William Styron

A complex, brilliant, passionate novel that opens with Stingo, a young southerner, journeying north in 1947 to become a writer. He becomes intellectually and emotionally tangled with his neighbors in the pink Brooklyn rooming house they share: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman who survived a concentration camp but can never overcome the cost of her survival.

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Sophie's Choice
William Styron

A complex, brilliant, passionate novel that opens with Stingo, a young southerner, journeying north in 1947 to become a writer. He becomes intellectually and emotionally tangled with his neighbors in the pink Brooklyn rooming house they share: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman who survived a concentration camp but can never overcome the cost of her survival.

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Mildred Pierce
by James. M. Cain

Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter. A book as good as the movie and the movie starred Joan Crawford.

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Mildred Pierce
James. M. Cain

Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter. A book as good as the movie and the movie starred Joan Crawford.

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
by Muriel Spark

Miss Brodie, one of the most wonderful female characters, is an out-spoken and rashly passionate teacher chafing at the restraint of 1930 Edinburgh social norms. In love with two men, and deeply devoted to her students, who she calls the "creme de la creme". The story of how she comes up against the wall of social disapproval and betrayal is heartbreaking and beautiful.

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Muriel Spark

Miss Brodie, one of the most wonderful female characters, is an out-spoken and rashly passionate teacher chafing at the restraint of 1930 Edinburgh social norms. In love with two men, and deeply devoted to her students, who she calls the "creme de la creme". The story of how she comes up against the wall of social disapproval and betrayal is heartbreaking and beautiful.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
by Ken Kesey

A mordant, wickedly subversive parable set in a mental ward, the novel chronicles the head-on collision between its hell-raising, life-affirming hero Randle Patrick McMurphy and the totalitarian rule of Big Nurse. But McMurphy's revolution against Big Nurse (aka Nurse Ratched) and everything she stands for quickly turns from sport to a fierce power struggle with shattering results.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ken Kesey

A mordant, wickedly subversive parable set in a mental ward, the novel chronicles the head-on collision between its hell-raising, life-affirming hero Randle Patrick McMurphy and the totalitarian rule of Big Nurse. But McMurphy's revolution against Big Nurse (aka Nurse Ratched) and everything she stands for quickly turns from sport to a fierce power struggle with shattering results.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

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Terms of Endearment
by Larry McMurtry

In this acclaimed novel that inspired the Academy Award-winning motion picture, McMurtry created two unforgettable characters Aurora Greenway and her daughter Emma. Their struggle to find the courage and humor to live through life's hazards -- and to love each other -- grabs you by the heart and doesn't let go.

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Terms of Endearment
Larry McMurtry

In this acclaimed novel that inspired the Academy Award-winning motion picture, McMurtry created two unforgettable characters Aurora Greenway and her daughter Emma. Their struggle to find the courage and humor to live through life's hazards -- and to love each other -- grabs you by the heart and doesn't let go.

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Misery
by Stephen King

Paul Sheldon. He’s a bestselling novelist who has finally met his biggest fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house. Now Annie wants Paul to write his greatest work—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an ax. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty.

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Misery
Stephen King

When novelist Paul Sheldon is in a terrible car crash on a wintry night, he is rescued by nurse Annie Wilkes, who just happens to be his biggest fan. But when his latest novel isn't to Wilkes's liking, Sheldon becomes prisoner to her violent temper. The novel is gripping and nightmarish and the 1990 film features Kathy Bates at her creepy, demented best.

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The Hours
by Michael Cunningham

Cunningham draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf's last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

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The Hours
Michael Cunningham

This Pulitzer Prize–winning novel turned Oscar-winning film is a profound story of how three generations of women were transformed by Virginia Woolf’s distinguished work Mrs. Dalloway.

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The Reader
by Bernard Schlink

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder. An Oprah Book Club selection

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The Reader
Bernard Schlink

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder. An Oprah Book Club selection

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

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The Silver Linings Playbook
by Matthew Quick

Meet Pat Peoples, just home from a mental health facility. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. Many complications lie in the way of his God-given mission, including the deeply odd and depressed Tiffany. A quirky, heartbreaking debut novel that will make you cry and laugh at the same time.

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The Silver Linings Playbook
Matthew Quick

A riotous and poignant story of how one man regains his memory and comes to terms with the magnitude of his wife’s betrayal. The film was an instant favorite among viewers, but if you’ve only seen the movie, treat yourself to the book.

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Close

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