Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

Unfortunately, this is not a manual on how to be a heroine. Instead, it's the author's reflection on how the heroines of the various books she's read has influenced her, as she goes through a re-reading spree inspired by the realisation that Cathy may not be the ideal heroine after all.

To go back and give you some background, the inspiration for this re-read came from the fear of the author that she had to give up her heroines. I think most of us would never consider something like that, but having been so deeply inspired by Cathy, and then realising she wasn't the best role-model, the author got a shock and decided to revisit all the heroines to see if they were best left alone. Her resulting experience would be this book.

I think, to enjoy the book, two things are needed.

One, you have to be well-read. Like really. The author goes through tons of books, and I find myself quite embarrassed at the number of books that I've not read. It also made me think that perhaps I should try reading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights again. I received them when my siblings were born (we have the practice of giving the existing children presents, and my parents know I like to read so....), but I didn't finish either book. Perhaps now that I'm older, it's time to go through it. After all, one of the things that this book showed me is that the same book can speak to you differently at different points in your life.

The other thing that you need is to remember that this is one person's experience. I disagree with the author's opinion on Little Women, Esther, Pollyanna, and I think most of her opinions. But, she and I have very different worldviews and upbringing, so I think it's only natural. If I had gotten annoyed every time I disagreed with the author, I bet I wouldn't even have finished the book.

Oh, but I really agreed with this line:
"And maybe it's by appropriating our heroines that we become heroines ourselves." 
Apart from that, I think there's not much I can say. This is basically a very personal book, about the author's experience and thinking. I find it well-written and interesting.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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