Saturday, March 21, 2015
Review: The Heroine's Bookshelf
I'm a big fan of both the enticing geekiness of well-written nonfiction, as well as the comfortable and comforting realm of literary heroines. What better way to spend an afternoon, than by spending a little time with both?
From Inkheart, to Book Lust, for a rightly-raised book nerd, there's almost nothing more inviting or comfortable than books about books.
And, especially for those of us granted with the simultaneous miracle and curse of a pair of ovaries, when it comes to the grand art of feminist literature, we are gifted with an abundance of some of the greatest novels in the pantheon of work by women authors.
(Really, you can make your arguments about specific works from dudes that add nuance to my sweeping generalization all you want - and I'm welcome to hearing them! - but no one really represents a female point of view in literature like someone who's actually walked the walk.)
Detailing the lives of the likes of Alice Walker to Margaret Mitchell to Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Heroine's Bookshelf, by Erin Blakemore, highlights landmark works featuring women in literature who brought their stories to life, both in characterization and in the reality of writing them. She does so while simultaneously pairing them with virtues they encompass that we can all stand to adopt more fully into our own lives, including "Faith," "Dignity," and sense of "Self."
Truth time: I geeked out hardcore at this book. It was the primary source of inspiration that brought about the epiphany that just because I gave up buying books, didn't mean I couldn't get any books for free that were still new to me. Aka, hello, Pierce County Local Libraries! That's right: I wanted a book so much, I waited a whole week for it, and then even went to pick it up myself. In person. Through conversation with a fellow human being.
(Chalk this one up to the list of "Things I'll Do for A Good Read that I Won't Do for Pizza.")
For the sake of expressing my pure unadulterated joy experienced at the hands of a book, I want to say that each character detailed throughout the work made me really happy. Even characters from books I hadn't read before, like The Color Purple, are now on my TBR list, thanks to the simple fact that the book did such a great job with expressing their importance in the context of women's lit, that I felt interested - and, dare I say it, obligated - to pick up a copy at the library circulation's earliest convenience.
Other already favorite characters, like Lizzie Bennett - who demonstrated the aforementioned gift of "Self" - were illuminated with additional insight through Blakemore's exposition, including through the extra tidbits of information that came at the end of each chapter, which made me giggle. Apparently, the sense of independence and self-possession that dear old Liz has displayed for hundreds of years has been deemed on par with her sister in literature Hermione Granger, which I honestly don't think is wrong, at all.
Truth be told, one afternoon's quick read wasn't nearly enough for me: I want a sequel! I could have read more and more about each of these lovely ladies, and the names I knew were honestly just as interesting as the ones I didn't. And why stop at just heroines? Why not do a companion novel, about great villains from novels as well, while matching them up with their accompanying sins? Or a roundup of children's characters, and how they best apply to reading development? There's just so many more opportunities! I'm giving you ideas for free here, Mrs. Blakemore!
Final Verdict: A short and sweet ode to famous females in print, and what we can learn from their legacies. I'm not afraid to heap praise, because, honestly, I just want more!