by Liz Flaherty
When I was nine years old, I read Little Women for the first time. I have no idea how many times I’ve read and watched it since. Jo March is my favorite heroine of all time. She felt every possible emotion in the three books she starred in, and handled every one of them so clumsily I identified, laughed, and cried with each one.
When I was…younger than nine, I read Understood Betsy. A few years back, I put it on my Kindle and have read it several times since. Betsy changes, grows, makes mistakes, gets to be a heroine but usually isn’t. I’ve never yet written a book that I didn’t think of Betsy.
I read The Shell Seekers every couple of years just to spend time with Penelope Keeling. I watch the movie made from it occasionally just to spend time with Angela Lansbury portraying Penelope Keeling. I can’t begin to explain what draws me to this particular heroine, but I am nevertheless drawn.
I loved Hattie in Courting Miss Hattie because she wasn’t gorgeous—they called her Horse Face Hattie!—and I wanted to spend time with her. I wanted to sit on the porch and drink coffee with her and talk about Life.
There are favorites among the heroines I’ve written, too. Grace in One More Summer, Libby in The Happiness Pact, and Carol in The Healing Summer (not out yet) are ones who hold firm places in my heart. Not because of their best points but because of their flaws.
Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite books ever, but I never grew to like Scarlett O’Hara. I might have loved her, but I never liked her.
I read a gazillion Nancy Drew books, but sometimes I wanted her to be…fallible. Wrong. When I read the nurse series that were popular when I was a kid, I loved Sue Barton, but Cherry Ames made me roll my eyes. Sue screwed up—I don’t think Cherry ever did.
None of the heroines of my life have been anywhere near perfect. If they were super smart, they also had two left feet. If they danced like a dream, they couldn’t spell any word with more than two syllables. And yet they have things in common. Like tenderness. Kindness. They laugh loud.
What about you? Who are your favorites—and your not favorites—and why?
by Helen DePrima
Thanks, Liz, for suggesting this topic. Ah, heroines! Sure, as readers, we love to fall for heroes, all shapes and ages, but we cheer and weep and agonize with the heroines, women with whom we can or wish we could identify.
The first heroine I encountered in literature was staunch, plucky, accident-prone Anne Shirley of Green Gables. I met her in my mother’s early editions, now loved to death by my daughter as a child. Another wonderful young heroine I discovered in my mother’s books was Elnora Comstock in Girl of the Limberlost, who met unkind fortune with grit and grace. And of course, the spunky Eastern schoolmarm wooed by the Virginian in the wilds of Wyoming.
Some characters are harder to love without reservation. I so wanted to smackBennett’s Island series, who didn’t get her priorities straight until halfway through the second book.
The heroines I created for my first four novels were characters I could admire, women confronting their fears and personal tragedies without losing hope and faith. In my book currently in progress, I’m dealing with a different breed of cat, an ambitious stage-struck Scarlett; I’d like to slap her cross-eyed for risking everyone’s happiness in favor of her career. I truly have no idea how the story will play out. Despite my yelling advice in her ear, she goes her own way. Stay tuned . . .