Review: The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blakemore

November 17, 2011 Classics, Harper Books, Literary Fiction, Review, Women's Fiction 22

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (November 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 006195876X
  • Source: Publisher

Classic literature is rich with female  characters deserving of the term “heroine.” From Jane Eyre to Anne Shirley, each of these characters overcame some sort of loss or struggle, landing firmly on two feet at the end. As a teen, I sought out these characters personally, treating them as my own solace from the world:

There’s something in the pause to read that’s soothing in and of itself.  A moment with a book is basic self-care, the kind of skill you pass along to your children as you would a security blanket or churchgoing habit.

Blakemore takes these characters, utilizes the lessons or characteristics depicted by these women, to produce a sort of lesson to inspire the reader. Additionally, each author’s own life is compared to that of her characters, detailing their motivations for writing that particular individual into existence. 

Of foremost importance is one’s responsibility to one’s self, forgoing love, success, etc. in the name of self-respect.

As with many of the authors, their own journey to personal happiness wasn’t necessarily successful. That said, the work they produced provided enough joy to generations of women to follow. They inspired many of us, reading these novels as teens, to aspire to more:

As women, we are the protagonists of our own personal novels. We are called upon to be the heroines of our own lives, not supporting characters.

Blakemore evaluates each of these characters, expanding upon the trait each held that inspired us as readers. These traits include self, faith, happiness, dignity, etc.  At the end of each chapter, Blakemore suggests occasions for reading the particular novel referenced. These range from “When your inner people-pleaser threatens to drown out your gut instinct” to When someone repeatedly misspells your name or implies that they’d rather interact with a man.”

At the conclusion of each chapter, Blakemore also lists each character’s literary sister, listing books of similar topic and theme.

The Heroine’s Bookshelf is guaranteed to be loved by all the women in your life, whether they’ve read the classics or not. I can imagine a book club being formed around the premise of the book, reading the initial classic, followed up by one of its “sisters” for comparison.

I want to personally thank Erin for reuniting me with my heroines.  I’ve made it a point to create my own “Heroine’s Bookshelf,” a place where I can seek solace in my heroines when life gets a little too rough. Highly recommended.

I have two copies of The Heroine’s Bookshelf to give away to one lucky reader, one paperback and one audio book. To enter, comment below with your favorite heroine from literature. It can from more modern literature, it doesn’t have to be classic. Be sure to indicate which format of the book you would prefer.  The winners will be contacted via email on Friday, November 25th.

If you want another chance to win a copy of the book, be sure to participate in today’s #Indiethursday on Twitter & Facebook (click here for more information on IndieThursday).

22 Responses to “Review: The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blakemore”

  1. Susan Crawford
    Twitter: Gardensage

    As a young girl I read all of the Nancy Drew mysteries. She was my heroine and sparked my lifelong love of reading. I would love to have the paperback version of The Heroine’s Bookshelf. Thanks.

  2. Meenoo

    One of my favorite characters (it’s hard to choose!) is Emily Starr of Emily of New Moon series. She felt more real to me than Anne. I would love to win the paperback book! Thanks.

  3. Heather Ponzer

    My all-time favorite heroine is Eleanor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility.

  4. M Denise C

    Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to get this book. Thank you for this posting!!

  5. Katie

    I’ve always loved Valancy Stirling from L.M. Montgomery’s book The Blue Castle. If chosen, I’d prefer the paperback over the audiobook. Thanks!

  6. Rachel

    No doubt, it’s Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Though all of Dahl’s female heroines were awesome, like Sophie from “The BFG.”

  7. Zara Garcia-Alvarez

    I just read “The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman and the narrative is written from the perspective of different women, all heroines in their own right. It’s a tough choice if I were to have to make one since each character in the book resonated with me. My heroine of choice to date would be: Shirah, The Witch of Moab. She is ostracized and feared by her community, forced to conceal her identity and her true love, yet remain a servant to those who would easily betray or condemn her. She is modern in her time of 70 CE, a culmination of strength, courage, passion, and power. And yet she is also capable of tenderness in the sacrificial risks she takes for those she loves: her friends, her daughters, the dovekeepers. In all of this she is feminine, beautiful, sensual, and strong.

    I would enjoy winning a copy of “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” in paperback. If it’s an inspiration to the heroine in all women, I would love to have it on my shelf!

  8. Nan

    If I win, I would prefer the pb book. I’d be giving it to my 29 year old daughter for Christmas. Gosh, it is hard to come up with a heroine/role model person. I think I most admire those everyday sorts of women, rather than someone who had overcome great difficulties. Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Miniver, many of the women in Miss Read’s books, the women in My Dear Aunt Flora, and most of the ones in D.E. Stevenson’s books.

  9. Nina Ellis

    I am a big fan of Swede from Leif Enger’s ‘Peace Like a River’ (which I loved despite differing from the narrator in my views on religion… A good book is a good book). She typewrites epic cowboy poetry astride her beloved saddle – in the back of her family’s trailer, not on a horse – as they pursue her wayward brother (recently escaped from jail) across highways and Badlands… And she’s only eight. She’s awesome.

  10. Tamara Randi

    I have 2 women I like reading about and think they were great characters and roll models.
    #1 Professor McGonagall from Hogwarts aka “Harry Potter”fame…She is wise and she takes charge and stands up to powerful men…lol
    #2 Queenie from “Lark Rise to Candleford” a bee keeper and a wise woman of the village.

  11. Kathleen WW

    I love Franny from A Tree Grows In Broooklyn. She loves her books, her family and her city (New York). She’s tough (the Christmas tree scene!) and smart. I love how she sticks with her dreams.

    Love the audio to listen in the car with my daughters while driving home from school!

  12. Meredith
    Twitter: McMer314

    Oh, I loved reading this book. I felt like I wanted to hug it after I was finished.

    My favorite literary heroines are Anne Shirley from “Anne of Green Gables” (we both despised our freckles and let our imagination get us into trouble) and Jo March from “Little Women” (I wanted to be a writer like her).

  13. Doni Molony
    Twitter: thebattleofme

    My favorite heroine is Calliope Helen Stephanides, fondly known as Calliope, who appears in MIDDLESEX; Jeffrey Eugenides Pulitizer Prize winning novel published in 2003. She is just delightful!

  14. Shannon

    I would have to say Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird! She was a tough young girl who comprehended right from wrong!
    If I win I would prefer the paperback! Thanks! P.s the book sounds awesome!

  15. Susie

    It is so hard to pick one! I have many! Pulling one of my favorites out of a hat I will say Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables. No matter how rough of an unloved start she had following her parents deaths she didn’t let that be an excuse to not love others. She also continually challenged herself to grow.

  16. Erin Golsen

    Makepeace Hatfield in Marcel Theroux’s brilliant Far North. I would prefer the paperback version–sounds like an inspiring book!

  17. Nicole Langan
    Twitter: TributeBooks

    My favorite heroine is Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    “Little House in the Big Woods” was the first novel I checked out of the school library and was able to read on my own.

    I’m a fan of all of the characters mentioned in the book, and it is one I look forward to picking up.

    What great insight about the importance of obtaining self-respect over constantly pursing happiness.

  18. Gabi Coatsworth

    I recently read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is a true heroine. When her sister is selected to be tribute in Hunger Games, Katniss steps in to take her place, knowing this means almost certain death. And her heroism doesn’t end there. She’s smart, courageous, and loving, and the trials she has to go through to triumph in the end prove it. Loved the book, loved the heroine. I’d prefer the paperback because it sounds like a book to dip into after you’ve read it. If I don’t win it, I’ll buy it.

  19. Z

    Mine was Aerin from Robin McKinley’s “The Hero and the Crown.” She got real battle scars as well as emotional scars but kept on going through to the end.