Monday, February 23, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Books

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

For this week's topic, I'm interested to see how other people define "heroine." I don't read much fantasy or sci-fi, and I feel like those are the traditional genres to have heroes and heroines, defined as someone who saves other people. I'm going to go with the dictionary definition of "a woman admired or idealized for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities."

1. Elizabeth McKenna from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This is an interesting one because Elizabeth isn't actually there for the present-day events of the novel, but she is frequently mentioned in the recollections of the other characters whose letters make up this book. Her kindness and courage touched all the people around her, and through the creation of the titular society, she found a way to bring the Guernsey islanders together for support during the German occupation of their island.

2. Frankie Landau-Banks from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
When she's excluded from her boarding school's secret society because she's female, Frankie finds a way to become the group's invisible leader, organizing the guys to pull off pranks that highlight the sexism at the school. She's a badass who doesn't let other people's perceptions of her define her.

3. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
It's been a long time since I read this, but I remember Jane as a symbol of the independent woman. She saves the life of the guy she loves but then refuses to be his mistress after learning she can't marry him, and refuses to marry another guy she doesn't love. As a woman in the 1800s from a poor background, she needed a lot of guts to stand up for her values that way.

4. Julie/Queenie/Verity from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
I can't say all the things that make this character a heroine without spoiling big parts of the book, but she's incredibly brave and willing to undergo a heck of a lot of stuff on behalf of her country.

5. Ma from Room by Emma Donoghue
We only ever know this character as "Ma," since the story is told from the perspective of her 5-year-old son. But through him we find out that she's been trying her hardest to create a safe and loving world for him within the confines of the room where she's been held captive since before he was born. And when she thinks he might be in danger, she starts plotting a way for them to escape.

6. Mariam from A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Mariam is married off to an abusive man who eventually takes a second wife, Laila. Although Mariam is initially angry with the younger Laila, she soon works together with her to try to leave and start a better life. In the end, she chooses to give Laila an opportunity to escape even if it means sacrificing herself.

7. Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl
Matilda goes from a neglectful family to a school with an abusive headmistress. Rather than allowing these experiences to break her, she channels her frustration into power and ingenuity, finding clever ways to get back at those who have hurt her and others.

8. Parvana from The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
After the Taliban take her father away, young Parvana must dress as a boy and go out to earn money for her family. Some of the opportunities she finds — like digging up graves — are terrifying and distasteful, but she learns to be brave so that she can keep her family alive.

9. Sarah Grimké from The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This is a fictionalized account of a real-life activist, so maybe it's cheating a little to include her on this list, but I didn't know she was a historical figure until after I finished the book. Not only did she work for the abolition of slavery, but she also stood up for women's rights, even within the abolitionist community.

10. Snow Flower from Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
This is another case where I don't want to spoil too much, but Snow Flower manages to keep her dignity and strives to create a better life for herself in the midst of terrible circumstances, even when hiding the truth about those circumstances means risking the loss of her only friend and possibly her whole reputation. She seeks not to be held back by the many restrictions placed on women in 19th century rural China, even though there are ultimately aspects of her destiny she cannot control.

Who are your favorite fictional heroines?

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  1. Jane Eyre made my list too! She is the definition of an independent woman- by 1800's standards and today's standards. I need to read Code Name Verity!

    Here's my Top Ten Tuesday

  2. My memory of Jane Eyre is a little fuzzy, so I'm glad to know my recollections about her character are shared!

    Code Name Verity is excellent, but the beginning can be a little slow. I promise it's worth sticking with it!

  3. Matilda is also on my list this week. I think she's one of my favourite female characters! Great list!

  4. I put Mariam on my list too! I did contemplate Sarah Grimke too but it was just so hard to only pick 10!

  5. Matilda!!!! I really need to reread that book one of these days. She's totally fabulous.

  6. Yup. I didn't realize how much different the book was from the movie until I reread the book, but they're both great and she's an awesome character in both.

  7. Agreed! I had to leave some people off. Very cool that you also picked Mariam!

  8. Mine too! I think she's a heroine to many bookworms :)

  9. I haven't read Matilda, but I definitely should. I loved the movie when I was younger.

    - Emma Likes Books

  10. How nice that Snow Flower and Elizabeth from the Guernsey book are your list. Very good!

  11. Matilda really embodies how a little person can be big. Love your list!

  12. Both the movie and the book are great, for different reasons!