As part of our month-long celebration of women’s writing, we’ve asked people HarperCollins wide who their favourite fictional heroine is and why.
Hannah O’Brien – Marketing Director, Harper Fiction
Favourite heroine – Lizzy from Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible
Torn between a sense of responsibility for her ageing parents and irresponsible younger siblings, pursuing her own career and a relationship with a partner who is her equal, she is marvellously witty and warm and unwilling to compromise. She would be the friend who gave you straight advice but who knew when you had to learn from your own mistakes, the one who would sacrifice her own plans to help you but to gain her respect, expected the same in return. She is a friend for life.
Jack Chalmers – Audio Editor
Favourite heroine – Beatrice from William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
“What should I do with him – dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.”
Beatrice is funny, feisty, and fearless. Often the sense of reason in the play, she is candid and brutal in her honesty. But she is a fine example of an, unfortunately all too rare, female character who stands above the dominating patriarchy and speaks her own, sharp, vibrant mind.
Lee Newman – Primary Publishing Director, Collins Learning
Favourite heroine – Matilda from Roald Dahl
One of my earliest and enduring literary heroines was/is Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Like most of Dahl’s child characters, Matilda lives in a contradictory and unjust world where adults are at best oblivious to children, and at worst, downright cruel to them. Only being five years old, and at the mercy of belligerent parents and a violent teacher, Matilda manages to right the wrongs done to her through ingenious tricks, until a surfeit of energy, intelligence and injustice is channelled into telekinesis. I love that someone so small and seemingly powerless manages to steadily change her and her classmates’ lives for the better, and of course, that Matilda finds sanctuary and escape in reading – something I identified with the very first time I read the book, and which is just as well seeing as I never managed to develop telekinetic powers!
Marta Juncosa – Sales Assistant, Group Sales
Favourite heroine – Aelin Galathynius (aka Celaena Sardothien) from Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass
My favourite literary heroine is Aelin Galathynius (aka Celaena Sardothien) but actually, I love every single woman in these books – they are bad-ass, reckless, witty, and they all prove again and again that they need no man to be successful. I think it’s amazing how these books teach teenagers that our first love is hardly ever the love of our life, and that this is okay. We need stronger, independent, feminist protagonists in juvenile literature – and this is a great start!
Rachel Quin – Marketing/PR Coordinator, Collins Learning
Favourite heroine – Elizabeth Woodville from Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen series
A strange hybrid of historical and literary, one of my favourite heroines is Elizabeth Woodville, as presented in Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen series. Her story is beautifully told and Gregory captured Elizabeth’s spirit in a way that non-fiction never could. Fierce, strong-minded and charming throughout, yet unafraid to show her vulnerability and passion in a male-dominated era, this book brought medieval history to life for me. Gregory’s Elizabeth is resourceful and powerful, and despite being dismissed as trophy by many at her husband’s court, she had an incredibly sharp mind that could outwit any opponent. Contemporary accounts of medieval women are few and far between, historical fiction and Gregory’s vibrant heroines inspired a lifelong love of the genre.
Rebecca McNamara – Marketing Executive, Group Marketing
Favourite heroine: Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
My favourite heroine is powerful, charismatic, beloved by those who know her least and dead long before the book starts.
I first read Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier’s gothic romance, when I was seven. I recognised a lot of myself in Maxim’s shy, insecure second wife (being quite shy and insecure myself at that age) and I too became obsessed with the idea of Rebecca. She was who I wanted to be – confident and self-assured, magnetic and beautiful. I was delighted that we shared a name – I spent days practising the downward slope of the ‘R’ in my signature, making it just as unwavering and bold as Rebecca’s. So when Maxim reveals Rebecca’s true nature towards the end of the book, I was just as thrown as the anonymous second wife. The woman I had idolised was a compulsive liar and a manipulative monster. Maybe Rebecca is an odd choice for a favourite heroine, but the lessons she taught me definitely left a lasting impression. After turning the final page, I resolved to never compare myself to someone else’s shadow (important in the age of Instagram), that kindness trumps charisma and to COMMUNICATE WITH MY FUTURE HUSBAND.
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