Sunday, 26 June 2016

Favourite Fictional Heroines (Part 1)

I'd originally planned to do just one post on my fictional heroines but no sooner did I think this post was done than I'd think of another heroine I just had to mention! So, I will spread this out over a couple of posts. 

My first five are:

(in particular Book 2, In the Hand of the Goddess, which is my favourite in the series)

I first encountered the character of Alanna around 27 years ago. I did start this paragraph by saying 'nearly three decades ago' but that length of time felt a wee bit too scary so I narrowed it down! I was not yet a teen and my favourite genres at that time were fantasy, science fiction, animal based tales like the Farthing Wood series etc. Money was tight at home so by and large any books that came my way came from the library and that was where I discovered In the Hand of the Goddess which I read, re-read and re-read again. Alannah was a normal looking character (barring the unusual eyes), stocky and capable at a time when a lot of books only showed the slim and in-need-of-rescue type female as being the one who got the guy. She had her doubts and her crises but always overcame them, staying true to her beliefs. 

(Book 1 in the Fairyland series. I have the other books but have not as yet read them)
Catherynne M Valente

I encountered September in my mid-30s. The book is ostensibly a children's book but there is so much here that the adult can understand in a way that I don't think a child can. That's not me being sniffy and dismissive of children. It's just that some of the passages make some pretty big statements about life which a child with reduce life experience would probably pass by whereas someone with a couple of decades under their belt will stop and ponder how much truth there can be in one grain of a sentence. Slight digression there...

September is whisked away to Fairyland and very swiftly learns that many things have a price. This book is made up of shades of grey rather than black and white. Valente puts September in situations where she has to make difficult decisions, revealing what a strong girl September is and the resourceful young woman she will hopefully grow in to by the end of the series.

(there are two more books in this series but this one remains my favourite)
(this amazing author died in 2015. She was a pivotal author of my teens and it still saddens me to know the world has lost an imaginative talent like her)

I think I read this book first in my mid-teens, and it's one I have re-read several times over. Here we have another practical heroine able to look after herself. She has a gift when it comes to mechanical items and thinks quickly on her feet. There's no artifice or flounce or drama to her. Tanaquil is so practical and so honest with herself. She just gets on with things and understands the difference between right and wrong in her world.

If I ever do a list of favourite companion animals then the Peeve will be on it, her furry side-kick who has absorbed so much magic in her mother's castle that he is able to speak, much to the disapprobation of some. 

(another author who is no longer with us, and who I miss)

Book 4 of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the book where Arthur Dent finally gets...I want to say 'some action' but feel I ought to write 'a love interest'.

From her unconscious introduction into the series (where her brother Russell mentions she thinks she's a hedgehog) to Arthur's discovery about what makes her so very different from any other woman walking the Earth, Fenchurch is not your standard heroine. She is intelligent, entertaining, amusing, witty, honest - I have a feeling I might be mentioning honesty a lot with my heroines and I think what I mean mainly by that description is she is true to herself. I don't have much time for characters who agonise over their decisions and themselves and prefer my heroines to be women of action rather than those characters given to over-complicated thought processes. Fenchurch takes the weirdness of Arthur Dent and combines it with her own and the two make a great pair in my book.

She's one of the main reasons why I don't really like the fifth book in the series and don't like returning to it.


This one is more a dishonourable mention than a heroine as there isn't really much to admire about this character. I picked up a copy of this book in a charity shop in my 20s as it was slim and could fit easily in my bag for an upcoming train journey. I was appalled and entranced by the character of Gabriella from that first reading. She's vain, shallow, self-obsessed, unfaithful and superior - but set against the colourless and ordered existence of the narrator of this story she has a vitality, frivolous as it may be, that the rest of his world lacks. I have read this book at least three times now, and it's Gabriella I keep returning for. She is so unapologetic about who she is and the life she has lived.

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