Favourite Heroines in Books

I’m linking up with the Broke and the Bookish again, this time for a list of my favourite literary heroines. Here we go:

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1. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre) – Jane has a spirit that won’t be squashed, despite being orphaned, oppressed by her relatives and deprived of the basic comforts of food and warmth at school. She’s resilient, capable and passionate, and she has the courage of her convictions.

2. Anne Elliot (Persuasion) – both Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen created characters outside the convention for heroines: Jane Eyre is plain, and Anne Elliot has lost the bloom of her youth. Like Jane, Anne triumphs as a character (though she’s not as sprightly as Jane). She’s loyal and kind, patient and passionate. And I admire Anne for looking back on her life and not regretting being guided by principle, even though it cost her a great deal.

3. Lucy (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) – Lucy’s sweet, true and awfully brave for such a young lass.

4. Pat Gardiner (Pat of Silver Bush, Mistress Pat) – Pat’s an unusual heroine in that she’s quite fearful of change in her life. But her heart gradually opens up to new experiences and to love, and it’s beautiful to see the change in her.

5. Jo March (Little Women) – Jo has a passionate zest for life, she’s driven and she’s such a good friend and sister.

6. Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) – witty, lively and possessing a set of fine eyes, I’m sure Elizabeth is on many a Top Ten Heroine list. What I like best about her: she holds her own with the formidable Mr. Darcy and she’s not afraid to admit her faults.

7. Eowyn (Lord of the Rings) – it’s been a while since I read LOTR, but I recall being drawn to Eowyn for her unrequited love of a good man, her lack of self-pity and the way in which she chose healing over the sword.

How about you? Who are you favourite literary heroines?

Top Ten Books I Want To Read

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1. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald – a Victorian fairy tale about a young boy and a beautiful woman who personifies the North Wind. I really enjoyed The Princess and the Goblin last year and would like to read more by GM.

2. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – a fellow book-clubber highly recommended this debut novel about an Icelandic woman charged with murder.

3. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson – an epistolary love story written in the 18th century; it has the dubious distinction of being one of the longest novels ever written . . . but if the writing is excellent, perhaps that’ll be a delight?

Cold Mary

4. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – any time a review notes the writing has the “comic aplomb of Evelyn Waugh” I take notice. This is a story of a young woman going to live with relatives at Cold Comfort Farm, where cows are named Feckless, Aimless, Pointless and Graceless. Sounds rather droll!

5. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset – a long character-driven story set in medieval Norway. Sounds delicious!

6. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell – I enjoyed North & South, and so have been contemplating reading another novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. This one looks interesting.

peace mill

7. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot – George Eliot creates beautiful and believable characters, and there’s nothing I love more than a well-crafted character-driven novel. I read Adam Bede in January and loved it, so I’m looking forward to reading more GE novels.

8. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger – I’ve been thinking about reading this book for about a year as it’s listed as many book bloggers favourite novel, and a recent post by Anne in which she said, “I don’t know if I’ve found a more lovable girl than Swede since Anne Shirley” made me want to read it all the more!

9. The Sea of Tranquility by Katya MillayModern Mrs. Darcy describes this YA novel as unputdownable and one of her favourite books of 2014.

10. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery – I read most of L.M. Montgomery’s novels last year but missed this one. I love her bubbly, tender stories of love and friendship.

I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish again for Top Ten Tuesdays.

Quick Lit // December 2014 & January 2015

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Here are a few mini book reviews of novels I’ve read over the last two months . . . Enjoy!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – still my favourite novel. Brilliant dialogue, passionate emotion + moral fortitude = perfection.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – the story of a young boy becoming a man. Full of exaggerated characters, I found David Copperfield a little slow in places, but there were parts of the story that resonated deeply. For instance, near the end of the story David describes his first love as, “The first mistaken impulse of an undisciplined heart” – and I can’t get that line out of my head. When was the last time the hero of a novel was admired for discipline and prudence? Our culture is all about ‘following your heart’ no matter where it leads . . .

Adam Bede by George Eliot – the story of a young man maturing – learning forgiveness, falling in love, experiencing sorrow. Eliot is so insightful about the way people act and think, plus her writing is really beautiful. I found myself frequently underlining thoughtful observations like this: “There are few prophets in the world; few sublimely beautiful women; few heroes. I can’t afford to give all my love and reverence to such rarities: I want a great deal of those feelings for my everyday fellow-men, especially for those few in the foreground of the great multitude, whose faces I know, whose hands I touch, for whom I have to make way with kindly courtesy.” Quite simply one of the best books I’ve ever read.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – this novel rests on a startling reveal about 70 pages in, and I certainly did not see it coming. So – points for surprise. But I found the jumpy narrative irritating, all the characters unsympathetic, and the persistent psychological trauma unconvincing.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – a dystopian retelling of the Cinderella fairytale – except not really, as many of the plot points do not align. This YA novel is pretty engaging, but far too fluffy and unrealistic to be satisfying (Prince, why are falling in love with this cyborg for no discernible reason? And why are you telling her state secrets on your second or third meeting?).

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery – another lovely instalment in the Anne of Green Gables series.

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde – quite a fascinating story of a young man’s obsession with beauty and the growing corruption of his soul. The asides on art and philosophy were way over my head, as were many of the British witticisms, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless.

I’m linking up with Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy today; head on over for more brief book reviews!

The Magic of the Commonplace

Woman at the Garden by Renoir

Woman at the Garden by Renoir

The magic of the commonplace, the wonderful use of biblical language, the delightful realms of a child’s imagination – these are all reasons I love Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books.  Here is a wee little taste of the refreshing waters:

At heart a thorough clansman, she loved, without knowing she loved, all the old clan customs and beliefs and follies and wisdoms as immutable as the law of Mede and Persian.  They were all part of that int’resting world where she lived and moved and had her being – a world which could never be dull for Marigold, who possessed the talismanic power of flinging something glamorous over the most commonplace fact of life.  As Aunt Marigold said, Marigold saw the soul of things as well as the things themselves.
Magic for Marigold, Lucy Maud Montgomery

Twitterature // October 2014

Hello dear world!  Here are a few mini reviews of books I’ve read this past month.

emily emily climbs Emily's Quest

Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest by L.M. Montgomery – I’d never read this delightful series before, but thought I’d try it after loving some novels by Lucy Maud last month . . . and what can I say, I love Emily almost as much as I love Anne!  She takes the same tender delight in the things of the earth (anthropomorphizing everything in sight), and she’s bright, engaging and charming.  Emily grows, matures, endures.  As I finished the second book, I was thinking thoughts like, “Oh my, a simply perfect series!”  But my one reservation is with the third book in the series, Emily’s Quest.  I flew through it because of the tenuous love situation, the knot in my stomach growing and growing as the end of the book neared.  And oh, I found the ending disappointing!  I was really hoping for some depth of character to Teddy, but he remained aloof and boring – an unsatisfying ending to a very good series.

greengables avonlea anne of the island

Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – I’ve read and re-read Anne of Green Gables many times already (it’s one of my favourite novels), but it’s just as lovely and stirring the tenth or twelfth time as it was the first.  I love Anne, her penchant for large words and her delightful capacity for appreciating beauty – not to mention her amusing misadventures.  Anne of Avonlea was wonderful, too – and then (again) I came to the third book in the series.  I don’t know what it is with Lucy Maud, but she certainly enjoys wreaking romantic havoc in the lives of her characters!  Again my stomach was in knots and I raced through the book even though I already knew the ending, which, incidentally, I found much more satisfying than Emily’s Quest – probably because Gilbert’s character is much more developed than Teddy’s.

Mistress Pat

Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery – this is the sequel to Pat of Silver Bush, which I read last month.  I must say I felt a lot of tender concern for Pat with her fear of change (it’s so bad that she despises the hymn Abide with Me for its line: “change and decay in all around I see”).  I suppose I identify with her; while I enjoyed changes and challenges in my twenties, I’ve become much more fond of stability and rootedness in my thirties.  I read of Pat’s enormous love for her childhood home and I grieve the fact that our family won’t have that (my husband is becoming a pastor in a church federation that typically sees pastors move from congregation to congregation every five to ten years).  Anyways, I really enjoyed the book; there’s a certain delicate bittersweetness to it as Pat grows up and experiences loss, change and love.

tigana-canadian-cover

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay – this novel seemed like a study in shades of gray: the bad guys show their vulnerable sides and develop their capacity for love, while the good guys engage in one-night stands with dominatrixes.  Ugh!!!   Disgusting lack of virtue = so not my kind of novel.  (I had to read it for book club.)  And even worse when read right after Anne of Green Gables!

Head on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for some more tweet(ish)-sized book reviews, and to Yarn Along to see what others are reading.

Saint Ox-Cart and the Rapunzel Hood

I loved this post my husband wrote on choosing excellent picture books for our children, so I thought I’d share it here. Enjoy!

Sixteen Seasons

We have a couple roosterlets that maraud through the halls of the manor with demands for food, horse rides, and stories, demands that we take seriously. I have few defenses against a boy who honestly thinks his dad can throw balls as high as the moon, and even fewer against a pair of doe-eyes and four peeping teeth. So they get fed, they get bounced, and above all, we try to fatten up their souls with good stories.

And we should, too. Stories give kids the means to judge the world around them, to discern truth from lies, good from evil, and beauty from ugliness. When kids see their favourite characters acting courageously, industriously, and with perseverance and duty to a cause greater than themselves, then they learn to want those things for themselves. When stories illustrate the cost of sin, kids learn that their sinful natures ought to be…

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Twitterature // June 2014

Whilst in between classic novels, I’ve indulged in a few lighter reads; here are a few tweet-sized book reviews (okay, I’ve gotten a bit wordy this month, so they’re little longer than 140 characters!).

Parnassus_COVERweb  bridge-to-haven  labor day

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley – the protagonist of this novel is rather charmless, but her counterpart, Roger Mifflin, is a delightful, chummy soul.  I’d like to have a pint of beer with him in a cozy pub and be regaled by one of his thousand stories.  This is a quick and breezy book (I finished it in half a day, whilst caring for my little ones) with an admittedly weak plot about book-loving booksellers and their gentle adventures.

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers – this felt like a mash-up of Francine Rivers’s previous novels: the sexual promiscuity of Redeeming Love, the gifted and handsome builder from And The Shofar Blew and the penniless girl who happens upon work in a diner from The Atonement Child.  You get the idea.  The stale plot combined with surprisingly lackluster writing (lots of the pastor walked here, the pastor said hello, the pastor sat down, the pastor sipped his Coke, etc.) made for an unsatisfying read.

Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers edited by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon – I love hearing birth stories, and I love reading them just as much, so when I saw this book perched on a library shelf I just couldn’t resist. The contributors are mostly novelists, so the stories are well-written with delightful snippets like: “If joy is the conclusion of birth, pain is the plot” and “In my personal pregnancy mythology, an epidural would be a disgrace, a C-section a tragedy of Greek proportions.”  Love it!  That being said, the contributors all seem to be rather left-wing, so there’s also the lesbian deconstructing the myth than men are needed to make a child, etc.  If you’re looking for an absorbing collection of birth stories, I’d recommend Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent or The Midwife by Jennifer Worth instead.

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Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges – a brave but untried knight is sent by the Faerie Queene to fight a grim and horrible dragon that is laying waste to the land.     The language in this book is vibrant and beautiful (“Gathering himself up, wild for revenge, he fiercely fell upon the sunbright shield and gripped it fast with his paw”), as is the wonderful tale of good triumphing over evil.  As an added bonus, the illustrations are spectacular, among the most striking I’ve come across in children’s literature.  Highly recommended, especially for 4-8 year old boys.

I’m linking up with Anne at The Modern Mrs. Darcy today; head on over to her blog to find more itty-bitty book reviews!