Dr. Blakemore speaking, how may I help you?
Doctor, I’m having a horrible time! My love life is a mess, the bank is foreclosing on my house, I can’t decide what to do with my life, and my parents have disowned me! What should I do?
My goodness, you are in dire straits! I’ll need to see you as soon as possible. But until you can get into the office, try two chapters of Pride and Prejudice, one hundred pages of Gone With the Wind, the last half of Little Women, and at least 50 pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. We’ll call in the order to your local library immediately.
Thank you so much, Doctor! I’ll start reading right away!
Who would imagine literature as a cure for life’s ills? Erin Blakemore, that’s who. Her clever and delightful compendium, The Heroine’s Bookshelf, is a literary PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) of life lessons from literary characters. The book, which was just released in a ridiculously cute paperback version, revisits some of the great ladies of literature and their fictional heroines, looking at what each one has to convey to their 21st century counterparts.
The book is divided into a dozen categories to explore, and Blakemore chooses one author/literary heroine per topic. Jane Austen and Lizzy Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) teach us about Self, Margaret Mitchell and Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With the Wind) encourage us to Fight for our happiness, Louisa May Alcott and Jo March (Little Women) urge us to be Ambitious in life’s undertakings. We learn about Compassion from Harper Lee and Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockinbird) and Faith from Zora Neale Hurston and Janie Crawford (Their Eyes Were Watching God).
My personal favorite – Miss Scarlett herself, who has always epitomized grit and sass of a sort I’ve always aspired to and never quite achieved. Her creator, Margaret (Peggy) Mitchell, was more than a little like her. “Externally, Peggy managed to be everything that was expected of her: gracious, inviting, a good conversationalist, and an expert flatterer. But the tiny body that obediently danced, sat, and played along concealed a defiant, unruly mind.” Mitchell married a Rhett Butler type bounder (but with none of Rhett’s better qualities, apparently) who abused her repeatedly. When their marriage failed, she had to make it on her own, which was no mean feat in the mid 1930’s. But make it she did, with Scarlett-like determination, clawing her way to success with Scarlett as her ticket.
I really enjoyed the way Blakemore delved into the backgrounds of the authors as well as the characters, comparing and contrasting the personalities and experiences. It’s amazing how often an author’s life and personality were polar opposites to their most beloved characters. And also just as amazing when they intersected perfectly.
The Heroine’s Bookshelf should be on every woman’s bookshelf. It’s not only a great read for a winter weekend, but also a sure fire literary cure for whatever ails you.
Erin Blakemore learned to drool over Darcy and cry over Little Women in suburban San Diego, California. These days, her inner heroine loves roller derby, running her own business, and hiking in her adopted hometown of Boulder, Colorado.
Thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to read this delightful book!