How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

Challenge #7 ~ “A book about books.”


★ ★ ★ ★ ★

How To Be A Heroine is a must read for every bookworm, analysing and engaging with well-known female protagonists from a feminist perspective. But you needn’t be a die-hard feminist to appreciate it at all. Just a bookworm (and you don’t even need to have read the stories from which the characters originate!) Ellis winds together a thought-provoking and engaging analysis that develops and reflects as the book progresses. It is a fantastic idea that is carried out well – both in content and layout. Which is why I say it is well worth a read, if you’ve ever read a book in your life (and especially if you’ve read one or more of those mentioned within!)

I was slightly hesitant reading this book now – I’ve read most of the books Ellis focuses on, but not all, so I wasn’t sure how relevant or accessible those chapters would be. It turns out, very. Ellis provided a not-too-detailed summary that fleshed out the relevant information for her analysis, so that a well-versed reader wasn’t bored but a new reader had the relevant context. In fact, many times I was inspired to go off and find a copy of these other books (so maybe I should warn you that your TBR will grow whilst reading this book!)

My other worry was that this would sound like an elaborate and stretched-out literature essay. I don’t study English Literature or Language at university, and as much of a bookworm I am there are certain levels to some books that I just don’t grasp. Ellis presented her ideas in a light-hearted manner, weaving it with her own autobiography, and built on each character from one chapter to the next, including her own developing relationship and thoughts surrounding each protagonist. Many a time these ideas were some I hadn’t considered, or didn’t necessarily agree with, but proved certain food for thought. I even found myself thinking about how my favourite protagonists have influenced my life and myself, and how my best-loved books have evolved over time.

I loved Ellis’ book from cover to cover (and thinking about it now, on Christmas Eve, I probably should have put it on my Christmas list so that I have my very own copy to cherish!) It was accessible, engaging, thought-provoking and not just a heavy slog through the pros and cons of classic female protagonists or a hardcore feminist argument on girls in literature. The book was 100% ideal and a perfect embodiment of such a grand idea – an idea that I think should be applied to modern YA protagonists, because that would certainly make for an interesting read!

Recommended for fans of:

  • Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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