Lessons from Our (Literary) Heroines

heroine bookshelfThis week for my new book of the week I read The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blakemore. As I was trying to decide what new book to take on, I was thinking about all the ways in which I have learned from some of my favorite heroines. Fortunately, I came across Blakemore’s book, and I was eager to see if the life lessons she had gleaned from her favorite works of literature were in sync with my own.

In her book, Blakemore discusses such well known heroines as Jo March (Little Woman), Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), and Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) to great young heroines like Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), Laura Ingalls (The Long Winter), and Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables). Each chapter of the book is devoted not only to a specific heroine and the life lesson she exemplifies (for example, Scarlett O’Hara embodies fight and the will to not back down), but Blakemore also dives into the lives of the heroines’ creators as well.

For the most part, many of my favorite authors lived sad and often difficult lives of hardship. Blakemore organizes her book in such a way so that each author also personifies the life lesson of her creation. It did not escape my notice that many of the authors managed to overcome their strife, even if for only a brief respite, to gift the world with their literary genius; and Blakemore’s thesis seems to be that it is our duty as readers to not forget them or their work.  In my opinion, with heroines such as these, that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Blakemore also explores the themes of more mature and harsh works like The Color Purple and Their Eyes Were Watching God, but she always manages to end each chapter with a sense of looking to these heroines and their creators to buoy our spirits and to recognize these heroines for what they are: dear friends. It was nice to revisit some of my favorite novels through the eyes of another, it was like being a member of a book club that always chooses the best books to read and discuss. I would recommend this book for that very reason, or if you’re someone looking for a great read you might have missed.


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