Literary Heroines, Round 2

Okay, here’s the next five in my top ten favourite female characters:

6. Miss Matty in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford. I adore this sweet old lady who seems at first like she’s wasted her life as a spinster, living under her bossy older sister. But throughout the book Miss Matty comes into her own and shows how the simple love and friendship she shares with the other people of Cranford is something to cherish. I wish I had a Miss Matty in my life. (The closest I’ve ever come is an English teacher in junior high who I gave a hug to every day.)

7. Elinor Carlisle in Agatha Christie’s Sad Cypress. Elinor is quietly passionate but the guy she’s in love with prefers ice queens, so she hides who she really is for him (they discuss the Wars of the Roses, she’s always liked the red rose of Lancaster side, while he likes the white of York and I really had no idea who had what colour flowers until I wikipediaed it just now, but it’s nice imagery to show their differing styles of romantic attraction). Later when he likes another girl and then that girl ends up dead, Elinor fears that somehow she’s killed her (with a set of bad fish paste sandwiches for tea). I can relate to that whole hiding who I really am to impress people thing and the excessive guilt thing and Elinor’s red roses have always stayed in my mind since I first read it at 18.

8. Mary Lennox in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Mary is a lonely little brat when she first comes to Misselthwaite Manor, but as she begins to take long walks in the gardens and relish in the fresh moor air, she becomes healthier and happier and learns how to make friends and enjoy life. I read this again this year, just longing to be transformed like Mary from my sometimes grumpy self by a little robin and a secret garden.

9. Ginny Weasley in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I feel slightly silly about this one, but I really like how despite Ginny’s crush on Harry, she learns to be herself around him. And she’s funny and brave and good at sports and her patronus is a horse. And that’s as far into fan talk as I’m going. πŸ˜‰

10. Nancy Drew. The Nancy Drew yellow hardcovers are some of the first books I picked out to read for myself, before that my sister and I were given nice good little pre-approved boxsets of books for good old fashioned girls (I’m not saying I don’t like Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie and Chronicles of Narnia, I’m just saying I didn’t chose them for myself.) Nancy Drew was not a child, she had adventures as a single woman and was smarter than everyone else and also more resourceful. The mystery genre has since been a comfort that I periodically return to (with Miss Marple being another favourite heroine), partly because of Nancy showing me that a girl only needs brains and bravery to get in on all the action.

Who are your favourite literary heroines? Anything good I’m missing out on?

In other bookish news, I’m sort of wanting to join in on the Madame Bovary read-along that’s happening right now. I read it just last year and while I found its realism to be a refreshing antidote to the excessive sugary romance in certain books and movies (and in plenty of cultural expectations shoved at women that life is always full of pink fluffy things), I also found it pretty depressing. And I figured now was not a good time for that. But the first round of posts about it are up and I’m so intrigued with all the insights everyone is writing about it that I missed last year! Plus it’s an absolutely gorgeous new edition that I actually held in my hands at a bookstore the other day (and sounds like a great translation too), but didn’t want to spend on the hardcover. Woe.

And then I’m also sort of wanting to join in on the War & Peace year long read-along too… I read 400 pages of it last year, hoping it would be just like Anna Karenina. It isn’t, quite, there’s more war than romance, perhaps not surprisingly. Still, classic literature calls to me! I’ve been unpacking several boxes of books I’d packed up (which was how I sprained my wrist in the first place, which is now obviously getting better enough to type with again) in order to find my copies of Swann’s Way (translated by Lydia Davis, who’s also just done Madame Bovary) and The Red & the Black by Stendhal. I don’t know if I’ll read any of the books I’ve just mentioned right now (I’m currently enjoying Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda, one of Jane Austen’s precursors filled with lots of late 18th century London high life), but I like to think and talk about them.

Next up, my top ten literary heroes (or do I need to do some rereading before I can really commit to all ten?) or maybe something else, like my top ten literary settings. Really, I have a list.

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15 thoughts on “Literary Heroines, Round 2

  1. Iris says:

    I always find it so hard to resist joining in on anything. I decided not to do the November readalong at nonsuch book, but now I am so tempted to join anyway. I am afraid I will regret it if I won’t..

    I’m interested in how you’ll like Belinda. I have been thinking of reading that one myself..

    And I do agree about Ginny Weasley, she is one of those underappreciated Harry Potter characters. I am afraid I cannot yet say anything about the others you have mentioned, since I haven’t read the books yet.

    • Carolyn says:

      I’m still making my list of favourite settings, but I will write about them soon. That’s really sweet that your story matched up with Persuasion, my husband reminds me of Henry Tilney, so I guess we’re well matched! πŸ™‚ (Oops, I’m replying to this a whole Saturday later…)

  2. Mrs.B says:

    I love your list and I’m intrigued by the Agatha Christie character you mentioned. I’m always wondering which Christie I should read next. Love Nancy Drew too.
    I would add Marian Halcombe from The Woman in White….she’s a fabulous heroine!

    • Carolyn says:

      Thanks Mrs. B and I hope you give Sad Cypress a try. It’s certainly not Christie’s best known book, but it’s stayed with me more than many of her other ones.

      I’ve already started thinking of heroines I’ve missed, maybe I’ll have to do another five! Certainly Marian is another great one.

  3. Penny says:

    Now I know what I’m going to re-read next! Sad Cypress! I had been planning on re-reading The Sittaford Mystery after seeing a totally awful TV adaptation where they changed the motive and the murderer, as well as several other things! But Sad Cypress it is!
    Being Scottish, I haven’t read any Nancy Drews, but I agree wholeheartedly with your other choices!

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Penny, it’s nice to see you here again. πŸ™‚ I popped over to your blog just the other day and loved all the photos of your books! I hope you like Sad Cypress.

      I don’t know if Nancy Drew reads well from an adult perspective, I tried to reread one of them and found it very wooden, but as a child, she was a great role model. I’ve collected a few of those books (with catchy titles like The Mystery at Lilac Inn how could I not?) just for nostalgia though.

      • Penny says:

        I’ve read all Agatha Christie’s books, but the only advantage of having an aging memory is that now I can’t always remember who-dunnit! Jane has just brought it downstairs for me, so I’m going to read it in the waiting room at the hospital – mother’s appointment…

  4. BuriedInPrint says:

    Somehow I skirted across the Nancy Drew mysteries as a young reader; maybe I got my mystery “fix” from those Trixie Belden stories and The Bobbsey Twins, or The Three Investigators, but for some reason I only read two or three Nancy Drews. I’d include Anne (of Green Gables) or Emily (of New Moon) on my list, but I know they’re old-fashioned choices, too, and perhaps they pale slightly against Ginny’s fiery independence (she is a fantastic choice).

    • Carolyn says:

      I read the Bobbsey Twins and some Hardy Boys too. Old fashioned choices in general appeal to me more than newer ones and I certainly grew up reading almost every single one of L.M. Montgomery’s books (my favourite heroine of hers would have to be Valency Stirling from The Blue Castle), but somehow I really like Ginny.

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