Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore

Lizzy Bennet, Anne Shirley, Scarlett O'Hara, Scout Finch.  Those are just four of the twelve literary heroines Erin Blakemore discusses in her book, The Heroine's Bookshelf:  Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder.  But, Blakemore's premise is that these heroines are not the only ones who can inspire us to be heroines in our own lives.  She suggests the authors of these books have interesting, often inspiring, lives themselves.

If you love to read, somewhere in these pages is probably one of those characters that meant a great deal to you.  Raise your hand if you yearned to be Jo March in Little Women.  Jo, who exemplifies "Ambition" in Blakemore's book, certainly reveals a great deal about her creator, Louise May Alcott.  But, Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables stands for a happiness that her author, Lucy Maud Montgomery never found in her own life.  The lives of these authors were very significant in creating the characters we love, and Blakemore highlights the aspects of the authors' lives that were significant to the books.

I won't spoil Blakemore's thunder by summarizing each chapter.  But, you'll want to know if your favorite  heroine and book is covered.  Along with the two in the previous paragraph, Blakemore discusses Lizzy Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Celie in The Color Purple, Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Claudine in Colette's Claudine novels, Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Laura Ingalls in The Long Winter, Jane Eyre, and Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden.  Do you see a favorite?

I liked the way Blakemore ended each chapter.  She said, "Read This Book:"  with suggestions when.  For instance, read Little Women, "On days when you'd rather sell your hair than get out of bed."  And, she gave each heroine three "Literary Sisters."  Scout's Literary Sisters included one of my favorites, "Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle."

It's hard not to quote the entire introduction of The Heroine's Bookshelf.  It was actually one of my favorite sections of the book.  So, I'm going to tempt you with a bit of Erin Blakemore's opening.  "In times of struggle, there are as many reasons not to read as there are to breathe....At life's ugliest junctures, the very act of opening a book can smack of cowardly escapism.  Who chooses to read when there's work to be done?"

"Call me a coward if you will, but when the line between duty and sanity blurs, you can usually find me curled up with a battered book, reading as if my mental health depended on it.  And it does, for inside the books I love I find food, respite, escape, and perspective."  There's so much more I'd like to quote, but readers need to pick up this book, and find yourself in it.  Then, after,  to steal a page from Erin Blakemore's The Heroine's Bookshelf, you might want to pick up a book by one of Blakemore's "Literary Sisters."  Try Hallie Ephron's  1001 Books for Every Mood.

Erin Blakemore's website is

The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore.  HarperCollins, ©2010. ISBN 9780061958762 (hardcover), 224p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested my copy from the publisher, so I could read and review it.


Bev Stephans said...

It's so interesting to see Mary Lennox from "The Secret Garden". I haven't read the book since I was young. I happened to spy it in the Barnes & Noble classic's section and bought it. I'm almost finished with it. I remember more of it than I thought I would.

Also, I keep saying that I'm going to re-read "Gone With The Wind".

I think I'll pick up a copy of this book. Sounds too good to miss.

Lesa said...

It's an interesting book, Bev, combining some of our favorite heroines with their creators. Hope you like it!

Beth Hoffman said...

I'd never heard of this book, but it sounds like a fun and interesting read. I just added it to my list. Thanks, Lesa! And happy weekend!

Lesa said...

It is an interesting read, Beth. Oh, thank you! It will be a good weekend. Went to a Wild Western Show this morning. Ohio State on TV this afternoon. I'm going to go see the movie Red tomorrow morning, and out to the Poisoned Pen to pick up books. And, Josh and I just had a cuddle.