I am usually one who does not read a whole lot of Nonfiction. The majority of the nonfiction I have read in my life were books that were assigned as homework, and this, unfortunately, is still the case today. In my undergraduate studies, all my nonfiction reading revolved around History; varying from different periods of the past and for my graduate studies, all my nonfictional reading pertains to books about grammar, and the English language. As much as I hate the admit it, the history books were far more interesting, even if the writing was super dry. So you can see where my askew sense of nonfiction books come from, and my literary expertise on this topic is nonexistent, but that did not stop me from purchasing a copy of How to be a Heroine: or what I have learned from reading too much by Samantha Ellis. I saw this book in a recent haul from a fellow bookworm I follow on YouTube ( BooksandQuills) who lives in London, and immediately went to Amazon to purchase my copy.
It is a tale told of the author’s life, about how books have changed and shaped her to be the woman that she is. Drawing on her favorite literary heroines like The Little Mermaid, Anne of Green Gables, Elizabeth Bennet, Scarlett O’Hara, Franny Glass, Esther Greenwood, Lucy Honeychurch, The Dolls, Cathy Earnshaw, Flora Poste and Scheherazade, she shows how each character has shaped to her to become the woman she was meant to be. Each female heroine impacted her life during her different phases, and changes she was experiencing throughout her life. Samantha writes about how reading too much has benefited her, not only as a writer, but also as a grown woman.
As a reader of the minimalist knowledge of the nonfiction/memoir world, I actually got this book and where the writer was coming from. As someone who also “reads too much”, I tend to find my role models are the women I read about, whether they are fictional or not. The author did a wonderful job talking about how important reading is while weaving bits and pieces of her life into the novel. The book was neither focused too much on the pieces of literary work or solely on her own life, but a delicate mingling of the two. When we live in a society where the Kim K’s and the Instragrammers are the role models of today’s generation, it was refreshing to see a woman who saw more and expected more from her role models. She saw the complexity of females in literature and desired to share the same characteristics that they possessed. This was not a book that I breezed through, but took at a very slow, glacial pace so I was able to enjoy every experience of the novel. I was pleasantly surprised that Samantha and I viewed of some of the same female characters as our own heroine’s, aka Lizzy Bennet. It was nice to see that someone shared my love and appreciation for such a character, even with all her flaws. There were a few heroines I was not familiar with, and this has made me curious to explore those other authors and read the other stories. I’ll put a list below of which book the female heroines belong to so you can gravitate towards whatever book you fancy.
Overall, I quite liked this book, and I may be more inclined to read a few more nonfiction/memoirs in the near future, but I am still devoted to fiction. This book is the perfect addition for any female book-worm, and as someone who is a renowned book-worm, I found the book fascinating and enjoyable. It is the perfect, easy read to enjoy at the end of a long day or to help in a bit of a reading slump. It carries the tools to kick-start a new found love, and curiosity for reading. I haven’t read all the books that Samantha mentions, and I am interested enough to check them out and give them a try. A few ideas for summer reading perhaps? I would think so.
Have you read How to be a Heroine? What did you think? Who do you consider to be your favorite literary heroine?
PS – Samantha mentions like a million other books besides the 11 main female characters, so there are a wide variety of novels to look into
- The Little Mermaid; The Little Mermaid The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen
- Anne of Green Gables; Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
- Elizabeth Bennet; Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Scarlett O’Hara; Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- Franny Glass; Franny & Zoey by J.D. Salinger
- Esther Greenwood; The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- Lucy Honeychurch; A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
- The Dolls; Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Seaman
- Cathy Earnshaw; Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Flora Poste; Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
- Scheherazade; the Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights by Anon.