There’s a whole library’s worth of books written on the subject of divorce.
There are shelves full of self-help guides. And there are tomes of step-by-step advice on dealing with the emotional, financial and legal practicalities that separating throws up.
But some of the most useful for anyone who wants to know what divorce is really about, come from those who’ve been there themselves. Some authors transport their experiences into a fictional setting, others are happy to share what they’ve been through as a cathartic, often searingly honest, expose of their marriage failings.
These books are a great reminder that the pain from the break up of a serious relationship is universal. You’re not the first person to go through it – and to come out the other side – and being reminded of that simple fact is a comfort for many.
While we didn’t deliberately set out to make this an all-female list of authors, a quick scroll of fiction and non fiction writing on divorce reveals a huge female/male imbalance. So if you’ve come across any male writers who’ve got something worthwhile to add to our short collection here, then please do let us know and we’ll be happy to pass on the recommendation.
Here, in no particular order, are just five written works that have something of interest to say.
Get Divorced: Be Happy Helen Thorn
Helen Thorn is an award-winning comedian, podcaster and author, probably best known for her honest take on parenthood in Scummy Mummies. Thorn shares her own roller coaster journey since unexpectedly divorcing after finding a note from another in her husband’s pocket. With the support of relationship experts and an army of women ‘who know’, Get Divorced, Be Happy reveals that going it alone isn’t the end.
A reader says: Helen has written something brilliant here that isn’t patronising or glib to those of us who have had the rug pulled from under us by surprise. Reading it is like a massive hug!
Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living Glennon Doyle
This part memoir, part wake up call, explores what happens when we stop striving to meet the expectations of the world and instead listen to the voice inside us. Doyle’s heartfelt confessions about her failed marriage and her subsequent journey became a Sunday Times No1. best-seller.
A reader says: Quarter of the way through I was texting my best friend saying, “you have to read this”. Several pages later I was like “I’ve not even finished it and I’ve already ordered you your own copy”.
The breakdown of Ephron’s own marriage proved the perfect fuel for the hilarious revenge of Heartburn, her only novel. It captures the bewilderment and grief of a woman struggling to process a shock betrayal in her perfect marriage.
A reader says: The inner-voice ramblings of a rejected wife. Refreshingly honest and told with great humour. A subject and recount that stands the test of time because some things never change.
How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over Theo Pauline Nestor
After banishing her husband over his gambling losses and with two young daughters to support, Nestor finds herself slipping from ‘middle-class grace’. She attends a court-ordered custody class, falters through job interviews and, to her surprise, falls in love again.
A reader says: Full of funny, self-deprecating but also deeply reflective passages. Nestor unpacks the societal expectations of a divorced woman, a divorced parent, and then a single parent trying to move on with her life.
Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation Rachel Cusk
Cusk writes an unflinching account of the first year of her separation after 10 years of marriage. She discovers previously unknown strengths and freedoms but also finds herself vulnerable to outsiders and unwelcome advice. There’s also the pressure to reconstruct a ‘normal’ life for her daughters when nothing feels normal at all.
A reader says: This is the book you want to pick up when you are going through a break up. Or just when you want to read a very fierce and fiercely talented writer on one of life’s most difficult subjects.
→ We’re written previously about inspirational books that are definitely worth picking up.
I WILL BE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL. AMANDA MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE HER ONLY CLIENT AND HOLDS YOUR HAND TO GUIDE YOU THROUGH