I recently finished a book I got for Christmas (I know, what took me so long? In my defense, I already had 3 books in the queue on Christmas day), How to Be a Heroine or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis. Of course, the title got a good laugh when I opened it. Parts of it I loved and parts of it were a little harder to get through. But what it really did for me is take me on a journey of my favorite books and my most loved heroes.
I’m not intending this as a book review or critique. More of a fun walk down memory lane. Where I didn’t connect very much with the book is my book heroes were very different. Although I’ve always been an avid reader, I admit that I haven’t always leaned very much toward what is well known as “good literature.” I’m pretty sure I’ve ready Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but neither was particularly memorable to me (which I’m sure will reward me horrified gasps from my literary friends). I both read Gone with the Wind and watched the movie and cried through The Color Purple (the book and the movie). But when it comes to heroes, the ones I admired and maybe wanted to be like, it was the girl sleuths, the witches, and the adventurers for me.
As child, I enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables, but it was Trixie Belden, the Bobsey Twins, and nurse Cherry Ames that I loved. I don’t know why I couldn’t quite love Nancy Drew. And who can resist Claudia Kincaid who ran away with her younger brother to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? Now that, my friend, was an adventure. While I don’t usually re-read books (so many books, so little time), I may have make an exception for A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, because there are two more books out there. I have teachers reading to us in school to thank for Claudia Kincaid and the Murry family. And I won’t forget Anne McCaffrey, who introduced me to the fantasy worlds of crystal singers and the many dragon riders of Pern and more.
The heroes of my adulthood haven’t changed a lot, they’ve just grown up. And some have not. Harry Potter came around when I was already an adult, as did the Shadow Hunters and The Hunger Games. In my favorite mysteries, it’s the crime-fighting, investigating, breaking-and-entering but for a good cause, women who rely on their brains rather than brawn and get the job done who I admire. The ones who escape sure death (and sometimes are rescued) book after book. Kinsey Milhone, V. I. Warshawski, Kat Colorado, Sharon McCone, Temperance Brennan, Cordelia Gray, Carlotta Carlyle, Alexandra Cooper, Irene Kelly, Skip Langdon, Aimee Leduc, Cat Marsala, Kate Martinelli, Tess Monaghan, Eve Dallas, Anna Pigeon, Bubbles Yablonsky, Stephanie Plum, Emily Pollifax, Mary Russell, Kay Scarpetta, April Woo, Sigrid Harald, Deborah Knott.
And let me not forget the un-intentionally time traveling Claire Randall Fraser of the Outlander series. Her daughter does it later, intentionally. Deborah Harkness also brings us some time traveling fun with her witch, historian Diana Bishop in her trilogy that starts with A Discovery of Witches.
There are many other witches, fairies, vampires, and detectives, friends from books, heroes and heroines all. They’ve had their say in my world view and provided a happy escape. Perhaps, one of these days, I’ll write my own version of How to be a Heroine.