Best books on lesbian love: Author Patricia Nicol recommends tomes for celebrating Pride

Two zebra crossings near my home have been temporarily repainted in rainbow colours. They are an instantly uplifting sight. Also, a poignant one: in usual circumstances, this past weekend would have seen the culmination of June’s Pride celebrations, with carnival marches across Britain’s cities.
How do you measure progress? I have read several recently published novels where the presence of lesbian and bisexual characters is presented as entirely unremarkable, which seems indicative.
But every movement needs its trailblazers. The Color Purple, published in 1982, resulted in Alice Walker becoming the first black American woman novelist to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Celie is encouraged to learn to love herself by Shug Avery in The Color Purple (pictured)
Several women struggle to live and love as they choose in The Night Watch (pictured)
Patricia Nicol shared a selection of fascinating books featuring lesbian love, including The Color Purple (pictured left) and The Night Watch (pictured right) 
The downtrodden, abused Celie is married to the violent Mister. It is his mistress, the jazz singer Shug Avery, whom Celie falls in love with, and who becomes the first person to encourage Celie to learn to love herself.
A British pioneer is Jeanette Winterson. Her 1985 semi-autobiographical debut novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is today considered a modern coming-of-age, coming-out classic, found on school syllabuses. I recall how, at the time of publication, the lesbian storyline meant it was hailed as risqué, despite its drab setting amid the Pentecostal community in Accrington, Lancashire — her zealous adoptive mother brought her up as one of God’s elect.
Winterson has said that, though proud that the book has helped generations of young women, it is by no means just for lesbians: ‘It’s for anyone interested in what happens at the frontiers of common sense.’
Sarah Waters is another brilliant contemporary novelist who often explores lesbian themes. Her novel, Fingersmith, is one of the most thrillingly compulsive stories I have ever read. The Night Watch, with Blitzed London as its backdrop, movingly and compellingly explores several women’s struggles to live and love as they choose.
If you’re marking Lockdown Pride, any of these would be a worthy companion.

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