Author: Erin Blakemore
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, Scout Finch—the literary canon is brimming with intelligent, feisty, never-say-die heroines and celebrated female authors. Like today’s women, they placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family. When they were up against the wall, authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott fought back—sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions. In this witty, informative, and inspiring read, their stories offer much-needed literary intervention to modern women.
Full of beloved heroines and the remarkable writers who created them, The Heroine’s Bookshelf explores how the pluck and dignity of literary characters such as Jane Eyre and Lizzy Bennet can encourage women today.
Each legendary character is paired with her central quality—Anne Shirley is associated with irrepressible “Happiness,” while Scarlett O’Hara personifies “Fight”—along with insights into her author’s extraordinary life. From Zora Neale Hurston to Colette, Laura Ingalls Wilder to Charlotte Bronte, Harper Lee to Alice Walker, here are authors and characters whose spirited stories are more inspiring today than ever.”
Thoughts: For such a small book, The Heroine’s Bookshelf packs quite a punch. It is one of those books that makes a reader proud to be female, while also making one appreciate the lessons learned from childhood heroines. It is the perfect novel to read when feeling blue or at a crossroads in one’s life because it simultaneously reminds one of all those who have experienced similar thoughts/sensations/emotions while confirming the idea that we are not alone in our struggles. In a book filled with lessons, it is the most powerful lesson of all.
Ms. Blakemore does a fantastic job of presenting each beloved character in a fresh new light while simultaneously confirming why they are beloved in the first place. At the same time, she shares the struggles each author had to overcome in order to present these extraordinary characters with the world. Fighting to be heard among men, fighting depression, letting one’s voice be heard – they are all issues that these authors dealt with while writing, which lends a note of familiarity to the entire proceedings because they continue to be problems today.
The Heroine’s Bookshelf posits the idea that heroines in novels can be important roles models in spite of being fictional. From Scarlett, one learns never to give up the fight. Who can forget the importance of happiness and looking on the bright side of things learned from Anne? What about staying true to one’s own beliefs, as shown to us by Jane? Often, the authors’ stories can be just as, if not more, inspirational than the heroines themselves. If they can overcome their own conflicts to write these extraordinary characters, we all can do the same in our own lives.
The Heroine’s Bookshelf makes me want to revisit and rejoice in each heroine all over again. Read at a time when I am struggling with my own demons in my personal life, Ms. Blakemore reminded me that I need to stay true to my own values, to fight for them, to never forget my sense of wonder, and to have faith. It is a reminder that I feel everyone needs to receive, and one that I will truly cherish.
Thank you to Mark Ferguson at Harper for my advanced reading copy!