I have run out of time today, this is going to be short (busy day doing almost nothing, watching Ze 'Unger Gemms, losing at chess and eating pho).
So I finished the lovely heroines book and it was moving and astute and fascinating, going from Catherine Earnshaw to Scheherazade via Judy in Lace and all points in-between. It's interesting, this idea of constructing yourself, or bolstering the self you want to become, through books and through their heroines. Clearly the process of absorbing and being influenced by a heroine isn't a conscious one and this book is a looking back and unpicking of all those unconscious influences, but the idea is that they did leave a lasting imprint of some kind; a suggested roadmap how to be a woman, right or wrong, appropriate or disastrous.
But it made me think that I'm not sure I have literary heroines and I can't even remember any from when I was little. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps because I am such an enlightened and evolved being that I require no external inspiration to self-actualise and assume my ultimate form, hem hem. I read so much growing up, but no one seems to have stuck in my mind as a formative influence. Real life heroines, sure. French actresses, absolutely. Authors, emphatically (Colette, Muriel Spark, Miles Franklin, Jean Rhys, Carson McCullers, Donna Tart..). Literary heroes? Loads. Just William, Jeeves, Sherlock Holmes, Rumpole of the Bailey, Lord Peter Wimsey... But literary heroines? Hmm.
This is a cheat and utterly obscure, but there was Christine McKenna. I read her memoir about learning to ride side-saddle to be in Flambards and for several years it was my Ultimate Book - horses and acting (I wanted to be an actress when I was little, somewhere after 'boxer' (7-8) and 'three day eventer' (9-11) and before 'French' (16-30)). She was funny too. Does this even count? I don't think it does, she's not fictional.
I mentioned Gwendolen Harleth last week but she's absolutely not the kind of heroine you aspire to be: she's proud and bad and wrong-headed and things turn out badly for her. Who else? Miss Jean Brodie? Becky Sharp? Maddie and Verity in Code Name Verity are pretty fabulous.. I feel like I'm missing someone, or lots of people. I would want steely courage and humour in a worthy heroine, no drippiness or sanctimony or getting in a flap about plays, zzzzzz Fanny Price. Who haven't I read, or who have I forgotten? Who are your literary heroines?