HarperCollins’ Heroines

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. From a classic work by Jane Austen, to a modern day unlikely heroine, you can’t say we don’t have variety!
Look out for two more blog posts charting the heroines of HarperCollins UK this month.

Alison Davies – Publicity Manager, William Collins

Favourite heroine: ‘Jennifer’ from Dietland

by Sarai Walker follows Plum Kettle, a fat, online agony aunt who struggles with body confidence and is desperate to have weight loss surgery. The novel is a refreshing call to arms which takes aim at the weight-loss industry and our rigid standards of beauty. It’s another strand of the book, however, where you meet ‘Jennifer’ – my favourite heroine. I’m cheating a little, as Jennifer is an anonymous group of women rather than an individual. Jennifer terrorizes a world that mistreats women. Rapists are killed and dropped out of planes into the desert. Newspaper editors are held hostage until they replace page three models with naked men. And although I would never condone violence, obviously, this feminist revenge fantasy is enormous fun.

Ammara Isa – Trade Marketing Executive 

Favourite heroine: Zuleika from The Emperor’s Babe

Published at the turn of the twenty-first century, The Emperor’s Babe features the character of Zuleika, a young black woman who is born of Sudanese parents in Roman London; a London that is not so far away from our own.  Even as she is married off to a fat old Roman emperor (as was custom at the time), she never seizes her wit, charm and searing humour  all while effortlessly critiquing the irreversible effects of racism and it’s bearing on her life. She is so SO vividly written (to the point of fluorescence) and I can’t liken her to anything I’ve ever read before.

Jon Howells – Corporate Communications Manager

Favourite heroine: Jenny Fields from The World According to Garp

My choice of literary heroine is Jenny Fields. Jenny is the mother of TS Garp in John Irving’s breakthrough, and to me best novel, The World According to Garp. For me, she’s the heart of the book. The book was gifted to me when I was 15 or 16 by my big sister (I wonder if she was trying to tell me something…), and was one of the books that took me beyond genre-fiction into a whole new world of writing. It had a huge effect on me, and although I did not realise it until just now when asked who I would choose and the name instantly popped into my head, Jenny Fields has stuck in my mind as a fearless, iconoclastic woman ever since.

El Slater – Sales Assistant, Harper Fiction/Non-Fiction/Avon

Favourite heroine: Eleanor Oliphant from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

There’s a reason Eleanor Oliphant from Gail Honeyman’s debut Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is being called this year’s most unlikely heroine: she’s odd, she’s awkward and she has absolutely no filter, leading to exchanges that made me laugh and cringe in equal measure. Here’s why Eleanor is my favourite literary heroine:

1) She’s an enigma. Her unconventional outlook and careful consideration of every social encounter is so intriguing. I love books that make you see things from a completely different perspective, and Eleanor certainly does!

2) She’s hilarious. Nine times out of ten this is unintentional: her misinterpretation of social situations is so funny, and I never failed to laugh when she comments: “I had no idea whatsoever what he was talking about”.

3) She’s a fighter. Eleanor battles anxiety, depression and repressed trauma, but she is a survivor. I’ve never rooted for a character as much as I did for Eleanor – she has an incredible inner strength which despite blows always keeps her going.

Eleanor Oliphant may be an unlikely heroine, but she’s without a doubt my favourite!

Elke Desanghere – Digital Marketing Manager, Avon

Favourite heroine: Emma Woodhouse from Emma

Many people often choose Elizabeth Bennet as their favourite Jane Austen heroine but I’ve always felt more akin to Emma Woodhouse from Austen’s Emma. I think it’s because she has all these good intentions on how to help her friends improve their lives, like how Harriet should marry Mr. Elton, but then it all ends up one big mess. A lot of what she does rings true to me as I’m always trying to butt into my friends live, usually not with the best outcome. However, what I love most about Emma is her independence. She’s happy and comfortable living with her father and sees no need to marry, just for the sake of getting out of the house. I’m grateful to Jane Austen for creating a heroine that isn’t defined by a relationship or a man. For my part, I think that’s still a really important message for women today. None of us should stay in a relationship where we’re unhappy. And if we choose to marry – yes, that is and always should be a choice – let it be a partnership, a union of equals not unlike Emma and her Mr. Knightley.

Check out some more of HaperCollins UK’s heroines!

Looking to kick-start your feminist reading? See our 4th Estate recommendations. 

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