March 8th is International Women’s Day, so to celebrate we asked authors to tell us which female character from fiction most inspires them and why…
I can’t go past Jo March in Little Women. She’s feisty, refuses to compromise her beliefs and won’t stand for women to be shoved into a kitchen and not be heard. She aims for the stars but also has a warm heart and loves her family deeply. The journey she goes on from tomboy to woman and learning how to adapt willingly and grow while still following her heart is inspirational and there’s no wonder Little Women, especially the character of Jo, is loved across the generations.
Anne Elliott out of Jane Austen’s Persuasion is a character who possesses many inspirational qualities. Clever, loyal and empathetic in the end she finally gets her Captain Wentworth.
Oh, it’s not like you’re asking the hard questions, right? 😉 Elizabeth Bennet for her wit and verve, but also her ability to look at herself honestly and confront (and try to improve) her failings. I recently reread Georgette Heyer’s Venetia. Venetia is a heroine who knows exactly what she wants—despite what her family, friends and society tells her she should want—and who has enough confidence and conviction to go after it. She knows she might not succeed, but she refuses to martyr herself on an altar of duty and so-called respectability. I love a heroine who deems her own happiness as important as everyone else’s.
I’m inspired by most female leading characters to be honest, as there has to be something special about them for them to make it onto the page! And there is something to learn from each protagonists journey. This is why I love reading romance, because it’s a female dominated genre where the heroine usually gets everything she wants. Romance is empowering!
Scout – from Harper Lee’s amazing book To Kill A Mockingbird. Her father, Atticus Finch is such a compelling character that we often forget the story is told through Scout’s eyes. She is only a child, but she is strong and bright and compassionate and questions everything, even her beloved father at times. Her youth and innocence set the tone for a book that deals with some difficult issues. An amazing character in a superlative book.
I enjoy reading about women who challenge convention. Last weekend, my four daughters were talking about this, and my second daughter listed a number of literary ‘second daughters’ who met this criterion, such as Jo March from Little Women and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. A book character that inspired me decades ago was a real one—Odette Sansome, a British spy who survived imprisonment and torture during WWII.
Maddy Timms in Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm. Although I do find her a little intense at some points, I like that she has a strict moral code and that she fights hard for what she believes in. Perhaps it’s the speech pathologist in me but I also love that she fights for Christian who’s had a stroke and finds it so difficult to communicate that he’s been sent off to a mental asylum. Trying to help people communicate is something I do every day so I guess Maddy Timms struck a chord that’s very close to home.
Stella Lane from The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.
I love how she doesn’t allow her Asperger’s to define her, how she grabs the challenges of dating and all it entails in a unique, proactive way.
Mara from the Empire Trilogy by Janny Wurts and Raymond E Feist. Mara is shackled by her culture’s expectations of a woman’s place, but also a cast system that she’s been brought up to accept. She breaks free of these shackles during the story and follows what she thinks is right, showing strength in things that others have always seen as weakness. She is not perfect – she is Machiavellian in some of the things she orchestrates to survive – but at the heart is a love of family and a love for her world and a growing understanding that if she does not back herself and force change in her society, none of them will survive. She even sacrifices being with the love of her life – although, in the end, because of everything she does, he comes back to her. She is a remarkably nuanced character who owns her faults as readily as she owns her strengths and as a young woman when I read those novels, she gave me lots to think about.
In particular, two heroines from fantasy stories that have been round a long time. Mara from the Empire Trilogy written by Janny Wurst and Raymond E Feist; and Ayla of the Earth Children’s series by Jean M Auel.
Elizabeth Middleton from Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness. She arrives in 18th century New York State with no idea of what life will be like, and she discovers it’s harsher and more difficult than she could have imagined—especially when she finds herself caught up in a drama between her family and the Mohawk people. And things only get more complicated when she has to marry a handsome local hunter and trapper and learn to live in an entirely new, native culture.
I love that throughout it all Elizabeth never loses sight of who she is. I’d definitely never cope the way she did!
(And it helps that the book is inspired by The Last of the Mohicans. Who can resist that!)
I love a character with gumption. With vim and vigour. Give me a heroine who is able to step back, see outside herself, learn from her mistakes, and move forward with joy and I’m in bliss.