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

  • 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).