Book Review: How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis

How To Be a Heroine

How To Be A Heroine is a kind of vague biography of the author, showing her from the beginning of self-discovery of who her heroine’s are, should have been or could have looked up to.

To begin with Ellis is on a walking trip with her friend, they are walking towards the house that became the inspiration for the well known book Heathcliff.  It is during this trip, when Ellis and her friend are taking a break, that they discuss Cathy, the leading woman in the book and how Ellis adores her while her friend doesn’t see any redeeming value in Cathy at all and prefers Jane Erye.

This conversation makes Ellis ponder and she decides to re-read both books and compare the heroines inside them.

To her surprise she learns something about each heroine, how she had been quick to judge Jane and not take into account certain things that she did, while she realised she had also been wrong about Cathy and essentially ignored her flaws.  With this in mind she decided to re-read the books of her childhood, the books that had women in them that she looked up to and that moulded her into who she was.

The reason why I call this a vague biography of the author is because it’s all about the author, she talks about her own childhood, she talks of her family and how they have been through so much and yet she hasn’t because when she was born they were living in the UK; although when she was a child she wished that she could have been on the adventure that her mother had been on.

Every heroine is intertwined with her past, every heroine holds a special place in Ellis’ heart, all of them remind her of her past, of her childhood, of lost loves and essentially making her into a woman that she is now.

Not to say that it didn’t have draw backs, there was many heroines that Ellis looks back on and she regrets having not fully understood them.

We go into Little Woman – which I have read and also seen the movie – Ellis has too, she re-reads the book and realises; they are boring.  The one who has the most character is Jo and by the end of the book, or indeed the whole series, Jo is a mild woman who has lost her spark.

She also goes into The Little Mermaid, Gone With The Wind, Anne of the Green Gables ect.  All of these books have impact in her past and all of them are looked at with new eyes now.  New eyes that realise that certain character’s aren’t one’s she should have been looking up to and then character’s that she should have looked up to.

The good news with this book is, even if you have not read any of the books that are mentioned in detail, it doesn’t matter.  Ellis explains the book and the premise that it is supposed to get across, she gets across the characters and what their roles are in the book, their struggles – because I have no real passion to read Gone With The Wind – and she also discusses other books that are more ‘hip’ like Twilight, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It should be warned though, that this book does contain spoilers for the books and even the TV series (Buffy).

In the long run though, the book is interesting to read, just keep in mind that this is the author’s own personal thoughts of these character’s she is criticising; although maybe it means that the readers should also re-read books from their own childhood and see if the character’s manage to keep a hold despite the hand of time.

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