My Top Ten Literary Heroines

 

You may well be thinking I am being ridiculous, trying to whittle down the vast array of heroines into one measly “top ten” list. And you would be right, it is ridiculous. But let’s have a go anyway… I’ve tried to be unpredictable here and there… (in no order of importance)

  1. Jennifer Jones, Looking for JJ

This girl isn’t what you would call a conventional heroine. Basically she killed her friend when she was ten and we see her life six years later as she attempts to integrate back into society under a false identity. Needless to say things are not easy for Jennifer however I loved the way that even though she did this beyond horrible thing I still empathised with her. She actually seemed like quite a nice person.

 

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2. Minny Jackson, The Help

This is my favorite character in The Help. Every time she is on the page it glows with humour, passion, bravery and rebellion. She tells everyone how things are and makes no apologies for that. I wish she could be my BFF.

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3. Artemis, Greek Mythology

My favorite goddess by a country mile. She’s the best in all of mythology with a bow and arrow, she’s a full on virgin and only hangs out with other virgins, in woods, surrounded by deer. How cool is she? (P.S. there is no actual such thing a ‘full on virgin’).

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4. Elizabeth Bennett, Pride and Prejudice

The predictability of this choice makes it no less worthy, I tell thee! Elizabeth is sparky in all the right places. That sounds a bit rude but what I mean is she gives as good as she gets and can play verbal tennis with the best of them – all done politely of course – and she can win. She’s also a bookworm and writes fabulous letters.

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Jane & Charlotte

I love the way Charlotte Brontë saw Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice like this: “a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but … no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck.” It says so much about both of them. I’m reading Pride and Prejudice again for the umpteenth time and noticing the absolute cruelty of Jane at times, but of course also the absolute genius.

As a seventeen year old girl I wrote some sort of fiction piece and gave it to my friend who was also an aspiring writer. I remember clearly his reaction to what I had wrote. It is one of those painful sort of things – on the one hand so seemingly mild and on the other hand as destructive as a forest fire. His reply to what I had wrote was ever so slightly derisive, ever so slightly mocking. He told me that it sounded just like Jane Austen, like I was writing in the 18th century or something.

At the time I felt completely destroyed and embarrassed and ashamed and a whole plethora of overblown reactions – as though the fact that I sounded like someone else was somehow disgraceful and the fact that there we were in 1997 sat in the depths of Blackburn, Lancashire and here I was sounding like a posh Englishwoman from another century – it was too much to bear and actually halted me in my writing efforts for quite some time, or at least kept me hiding from open view.

However now I look back in hindsight I can see that although it was said to unsettle, I can see exactly how I had sounded like someone else – of course I did. I read Jane Austen voraciously, because I enjoyed her but what that also meant, without me even knowing,  it is that I was learning from the best.

I think it was Neil Gaiman who said that at the beginning as a writer it is inevitable – and actually preferable – for imitation to take place. Of course it does, and it’s not a bad thing. Here I am all those years later, still reading Jane Austen and probably still imitating her to some slighter degree. But that’s alright, thankfully I can do that now without all those old fears.

believed to be Jane, from www.guardian.com
believed to be Jane, from http://www.guardian.com