How To Be A Heroine — In Which the Author Attempts to Make Sense of Her Life Through a Study of Famous Fictional Heroines

Samantha Ellis is a playwright, journalist and avid reader of novels featuring intriguing women protagonists. It is a fine book that discusses Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Predjudice, Gone with the WindValley of the Dolls, Franny and Zooey, and a host of other classics; and that is the feast we have been given here.  Ellis, the British born daughter of Iraqi Jewish refugees, populates her book, How to Be a Heroine – Or What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much, with an energetic roster of literary heroines.  Some, like Elizabeth Bennet, are pretty much completely wonderful without being annoying about it.  Others, like Scarlett O’Hara, are pretty reprehensible but their boldness and determination still take your breath away.  Many are insecure and of course most of them have been dealt a bad hand in life.  Ellis does a masterful job of looking at all these girls and women and their stories as she describes her own efforts to break free of a confining family and learn to be bold.  Ellis’s views change as she grows and makes her own way.  Indeed her defense of Mrs. Bennet as an inherently practical woman has considerable merit, although I will always have a soft spot for Mr. Bennet.  In any event, Ellis increasingly loses patience with the “good girls” and is more inspired by the brave and the bold, even if they are self-centered and obnoxious and their behavior is outrageous.

This book made me wish I had read certain classics, such as Anne of Green Gables.  I don’t think I’ll read up on Scheherazade, but Ellis’s evaluation is intriguing.   Ellis’s discussion of all these powerfully drawn heroines also gave me pause in some cases — perhaps my initial readings were too glib.  It is definitely time to reread a few of these great books and to try at least a few of them for the first time.

Most importantly How to Be a Heroine reminded me how important it was for me to be able to read about  strong women and their stories.  They inspired me and caused me to think outside the confines of my own life.  Feminism didn’t just happen — millions of us were inspired by reading about strong girls and women who dared to be brave and rescue themselves.  Hopefully How to Be a Heroine will give you the same powerful memories of your own reading adventures and obsessions.

Advertisements

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops – A Must for All Book Store Addicts

img_0018

If you hang out in bookshops, you will love, Jen Campbell’s Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.  Campbell works in a British bookshop and has a blog capturing some of the ridiculous things people have said or asked for in her shop.  Campbell’s blog has attracted posts from other bookshop workers around the world, and she has included some of these other contributions in her book.  It is all kind of reminiscent of the wonderful scene in Notting Hill, where an earnest customer walks into Hugh Grant’s travel bookshop and keeps asking for one non-travel book after another without ever stopping to comprehend that he has been told the shop only sells travel books.  Really anyone who has ever had the good or not-so-good fortune to work in a store will appreciate some of the idiotic questions customers ask.  It does make you wonder, however, if you have every asked similarly inane questions.

At any rate, this is a funny, light read that invokes to charm and character of bookshops around the world.