The literary canon is filled with intelligent, feisty, never-say-die heroines, and legendary female authors. Like today’s women, they too placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family. When their backs were against the wall, characters like Scarlett O’Hara, Jo March, Jane Eyre, and Elizabeth Bennet fought back - sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions. Their commonsense decisions resonate even more powerfully in a world where women are forced to return to the basics, paring down and shoring up their resources for what lies ahead.
In this compelling book of beloved heroines and the remarkable writers who created them, Erin Blakemore explores how the pluck and dignity of literary characters, such as Scout Finch and Jo March, can inspire women today. She divides these legendary characters into chapters that pair each with her central quality - Anne Shirley is associated with irrepressible “Happiness"; Scarlett O’Hara personifies “Fight”. Each chapter includes insights into the authors’ lives, revealing how their own strengths informed their timeless characters.
From Zora Neale Hurston to Colette, Laura Ingalls Wilder to Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen to Alice Walker, here are some of the most cherished authors and characters in literature.
Whether in good times for jubilation or troubled times to seek advice, we always turn back to the books we love the most. This is perhaps especially true of women, drawn in by female protagonists and the lives of the female authors who imagined them. There are, of course, many different kinds of women Erin Blakemore’s debut collection has something for each of them. A round-up of the dozen most influential novels in Blakemore’s life, The Heroine’s Bookshelf is a simple necessity for anybody looking to reminisce about the classic works that changed all of our lives.
Repeated Audie Award-nominee and multiple AudioFile Earphones Award-winner Tavia Gilbert works her magic here as usual. Gilbert gives wonderful life to a cast of characters that everyone is already familiar with, breathing a new energy into famously quotable moments, but transforming them with all due respect to the original images of the characters we have come to know and love. Her range in this regard is remarkable. Gilbert tackles Janie Crawford from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God in the chapter on faith, and then jumps to Ann Shirley from Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Ann of Green Gables in the next chapter on happiness.
Blakemore organizes each chapter based on an examination of a theme that runs between the life of the character and the life of the woman who authored her. Full of particularly astute observations are the chapters on dignity with southern favorite Alice Walker, compassion with reclusive one-book wonder Harper Lee, and indulgence with French libertine Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (the only author included in the book who is perhaps a bit outside the mainstream). There are also the rest of the usual suspects, from Jo March to Jane Eyre. Gilbert’s narration renders all of Blakemore’s contemporary analysis in vivid color, and there is something to love in all of these women, whether you are looking for solace or celebration. Megan Volpert
“An inspiring look at literature’s greatest and most enduring female characters - such as Jo March, Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, Laura Ingalls and others - and their authors, who have helped shape the inner lives of generations of women, teasing out universal tenets of strength and survival, and gleaning the wisdom and solace they offer to help women navigate these challenging times and find their inner heroine.” (PublishersLunch.com)
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While so many of the heroines described are focused outside of themselves, the author keeps returning to Self. Had hoped there would be more depth.
- H. Walker
Author's bio or personal melodrama?