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Friday, 8 September 2017

A (Short) Book Review: How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis

Hi, and welcome to another book review :-) I've been reading a bit more again lately - so there'll be more book reviews on here in the future - I hope you won't mind! 

Some reviews will be long, others will be a bit shorter... this one is more on the short side, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book. Quite the opposite, actually, I had a lot of fun reading it.

Today, I'm writing about 'How To Be A Heroine' by Samantha Ellis. I got this book because of another book... which surely sounds familiar to those of you who love reading, too! 

I had bought Ellis's biography about Anne Bronte (the youngest of the Bronte sisters) a while ago - which just has come out in the beginning of 2017 - and as I was leafing through it (I have not read it yet), I noticed very quickly that I like her writing style, and so I had a look at what else she has written - and this came up. I decided to get it - and I had so much fun reading it!

Samantha Ellis is a playwright, her background is Iraqi-Jewish (I'm saying this because it is important in the book). 

In a discussion with a friend, she realises that her whole life she has been trying to be Cathy Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights) - while she has much more in common with Jane Eyre and should have aspired to be even more like her. This 'revelation' sends her on a mission - she goes back to all the books and heroines that she's loved since childhood and re-reads them - realising that her approach now is different and she sees some of the heroines in a completely different light now that she's a grown-up woman. She discusses the development of the heroines, the worldview behind the books, the personal circumstances of the writer(s)... and the way the books shaped her view of herself, the world and what was / is important. 
We learn about how her own life - in a tight-knit Iraqi-Jewish community! - stands in context with her reading.

I loved this - Ellis has a great sense of humour, and I laughed out loud at some passages. She doesn't only cover 'good' literature or classics (like the Brontes, Austen, Sylvia Plath etc.), but also less 'high-brow' stories / authors, like Jacqueline Susann (The Valley of the Dolls) or Jilly Cooper (Riders), and she also gives her thoughts on 'Anne of Green Gables', 'Little Women' and the 'Shoes-books' by Noel Streatfeild.

I wasn't familiar with all the books she discussed, but knew quite a few - that helped, obviously - but she gives good summaries and explains what happens in the books, so I felt comfortable with not knowing every single title on her list. Also, I might not agree with everything she says about certain books and the respective heroines, but that doesn't signify much - it's just a matter of opinion or interpretation. You don't have to agree with everything someone writes to like and enjoy a particular book, I think!

As a direct result of reading this book, I just bought another book (yeah, I know... didn't you see this coming!), namely Noel Streatfeild's 'Ballet Shoes'. It's the one that Kathleen Kelly in 'You've got mail' recommends when someone asks where to start with the 'Shoes-books'. 

I have a feeling that I might buy the other books in the series, too (I've leafed through the book and liked what I read). So far, I've only ever read Streatfeild's book 'Thursday's Child' - which I loved..

So, I'd give this book the heads up - I enjoyed it a lot. It might not be suitable for people who like a coherent fictional story, but if you're interested in literature and what effect it can have on individuals, you might actually find this book quite enjoyable to read.
If you've read this book, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it. If you haven't read it - would you give this book a chance? 
More generally: Are you more a reader of fiction, or do you also read non-fiction?
In any event, feedback is welcome, as always!
For now, take care and be safe!


  1. I haven't read the book, but I did see the movie Ballet Shoes, with the always lovely Emilia Fox. So if you liked the book, you may also like the film as well. It is a children's movie, but somehow this does not always matter! :-)

    Kind regards,

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Bettina. I really like Emilia Fox, so chances are I'll like the film :-) As you say, it doesn't always matter what audience a film is made for. I love fairy tale films that are aimed at kids, so why not also 'Ballet Shoes'... :-)