Cathy Earnshaw or Jane Eyre? Petrova or Posy? Scarlett or Melanie? Lace or Valley of the Dolls?
On a pilgrimage to Wuthering Heights, Samantha Ellis found herself arguing with her best friend about which heroine was best: Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. She was all for wild, passionate Cathy; but her friend found Cathy silly, a snob, while courageous Jane makes her own way.
And that’s when Samantha realised that all her life she’d been trying to be Cathy when she should have been trying to be Jane.
So she decided to look again at her heroines – the girls, women, books that had shaped her ideas of the world and how to live. Some of them stood up to the scrutiny (she will always love Lizzy Bennet); some of them most decidedly did not (turns out Katy Carr from What Katy Did isn’t a carefree rebel, she’s a drip). There were revelations (the real heroine of Gone with the Wind? It's Melanie), joyous reunions (Anne of Green Gables), poignant memories (Sylvia Plath) and tearful goodbyes (Lucy Honeychurch). And then there was Jilly Cooper...
How To Be A Heroine is Samantha’s funny, touching, inspiring exploration of the role of heroines, and our favourite books, in all our lives – and how they change over time, for better or worse, just as we do.
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This warm, witty memoir is perfect if you're the kind of woman for whom the Louisa May Alcott quote, 'She is too fond of books and it has turned her head' reverberates... At the end of the day, this is a life-affirming feminist text, but one delivered with such dexterity and sly humour that it never feels like a polemic or prescription, making it well worth your time - Scotsman
It fizzes along, thanks to Ellis's warm humour and interesting back story... Plus, how could we resist a book that reminisces about Judy Blume novels? - Glamour
A real treat - Good Housekeeping
Listen up, ladies: it's never too late to become your own heroine. This warm, spry tale of a textual coming of age leads the way through a gallery of literary role models, introducing and reintroducing warriors and worriers, spinsters and seductresses. Plucked from the pages of authors from Jane Austen to Jilly Cooper, there are heroines here to make you bold, make you laugh, and make you mad. They'll all get you thinking. - Hephzibah Anderson
A thoughtful, celebratory book that leaves you believing Ellis enjoyed writing it as much as you'll enjoy reading it - UK Press Syndication
This book is at its best and most amusing in the autobiographical passages which describe the author’s volatile and close-knit family and her place within it - Spectator
[A] jaunty, witty book - Telegraph
A delight. It’s a memoir-slash-accessible-literary-criticism, slash-your-next-read - Image Magazine
Fascinating and insightful... This is a book that can teach so much about the self; it can make struggles so wound up in the past and in the novels that stay with you come clear. Nostalgic, warming and a stern lesson for life, How to Be a Heroine should be on everyone’s bookshelf - The Upcoming
About the Author
Samantha Ellis is a playwright and journalist. The daughter of Iraqi-Jewish refugees, she grew up thinking her family had travelled everywhere by magic carpet. From an early age she knew she didn’t want their version of a happy ending – marriage to a nice Iraqi-Jewish boy – so she read books to find out what she did want. Her plays include Patching Havoc, Sugar and Snow and Cling To Me Like Ivy, and she is a founding member of women’s theatre company Agent 160. She lives in London.