Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder

Heroine's Bookshelf, The: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder

It amuses me that the first non-fiction book I review on this blog is a book about books.
Go figure.

Anyway, I did finally pick up a non-fiction book after not reading any for almost a year. I seriously needed a break from books like that after being in college for 4 1/2 years.
But I picked up Erin Blakemore's book at the bookstore some months ago and I finally read it a few weeks ago when I couldn't decide which book on my summer reading list to read next. (That's one of the problems with making a list, but that's a topic for another post.)

Blakemore clearly demonstrates a love for literature in her book. That much I really enjoyed. But what I had a problem with were her ridiculously feministic ideals. Some of them were just not realistic, nor were they actually appropriate to the book she was talking about. But that's just me. I don't like the way the world reinterprets books written 100+ years ago to fit their post-modern philosophies. (Again, a topic for another post, so I won't go into any detail.)


There are twelve books/series and their heroines that Blakemore writes about, each under a specific theme.
1. SELF -- Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. (Favorite.)
2. FAITH -- Janie Crawford from Their Eyes Were Watching God (I haven't read this.)
3. HAPPINESS -- Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. (Favorite.)
4. DIGNITY -- Celie from The Color Purple. (I absolutely hated this book.)
5. FAMILY TIES -- Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (I haven't read this.)
6. INDULGENCE -- Claudine from the Claudine novels. (They're French...says a lot. I haven't read them, though.)
7. FIGHT -- Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. (Reading this right now!)
8. COMPASSION -- Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. (Favorite.)
9. SIMPLICITY -- Laura Ingalls from specifically The Long Winter.
10. STEADFASTNESS -- Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre. (Favorite.)
11. AMBITION -- Jo March from Little Women. (Favorite.)
12. MAGIC -- Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden. (Favorite.)


As you can see, about half of these are some of my favorite novels. Blakemore gives a lot of author background, which I definitely enjoyed. All of these are written by women, as well, which is another of her points. No male-oriented literature here. And she tells a few very inspiring tales about a few of the authors. Something I learned from this book is that a few of my favorite novels might never have been written if the author had a choice. Funny how that works; some of the most loved books today almost never happened.

It certainly wasn't a bad book, and I went into it expecting some feminist criticism. And it's always interesting to me to see how other people who have a different worldview look at novels that were written in a much more moral time period. (Other than the Claudine novels -- but like I said, they're French.)

I'll give it four stars, because it was well-written and Erin Blakemore makes such a wonderful case for rereading your favorite books once in a while that I can't just ignore her.


  1. I haven't read this book, but I DID meet and have dinner with Erin Blakemore last year during student teaching. Our school got some money to bring her and another author out to discuss writing and literature with our students.

    She's WONDERFUL to talk to, one of my favorite people I've ever met. She's on twitter as well, I like to follow her tweets. She was recently at a Laura Ingalls Wilder conference and tweeted while she was there. It was thoroughly entertaining. ^_^