let’s talk: kick-ass literary heroines
Let’s Talk is a weekly feature at i swim for oceans. This is my first time joining in on the conversation, but I just couldn’t pass on the topic of conversation this time around.
There are a lot of great romantic heroines to pick from, the majority of them for me from Julia Quinn’s amazing series of books. But there’s one that stands out as probably my favorite character in any book, ever. (And I’m not entirely sure I’m exaggerating.) She is Penelope Featherington from Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn. There’s too much spoilery info to talk about when talking about Penelope Featherington, so I’ll keep it brief. She’s absolutely brilliant, pined after the same man since she was 16 (and made it to the realization, when she was firmly “on the shelf,” at near-30 — which in Regency romance times is ancient!– that it was never going to happen), lives her own life as much as she could among the societal trappings, she is independent and bold, and she is unassuming, which makes her all the more the perfect romance heroine. Too often they are the extremes in Regency writing — unwanted bluestockings or belles of the ball — and Penelope is, truly, an “every girl” within the Regency romance genre. I know I’ve talked about Romancing Mr. Bridgerton a lot, but the fact of the matter is: it’s absolutely one of my favorite books, ever, and it’s absolutely because of Penelope and her hero, Colin. (For examples, you can see how many top ten lists Penelope or Colin ended up on over the years: 1 2 3 4 & 5.)
Two heroines here: Verity and Maddie from the brilliant, breathtaking, incredible book Code Name: Verity This is another one where I can’t really talk too much for fear of spoiling you (but honestly, if you haven’t read Code Name: Verity yet, what are you waiting for? it’s BEYOND amazing), so I’ll say this: the women are strong, wartime girls with different skills, wants, and backgrounds. The narrative in the book is engaging and wonderful, and I really just can’t recommend this book enough. There is just something wonderful about empowered women in a time of war and their stories, how entwined and mysterious and engrossing it is.
While I realize that the information actually given in the Harry Potter series about Harry’s mother, Lily Evans, isn’t extensive, I do think it’s enough to count her as an awesome literary heroine. She’s the tragic heroine of her own story, one that I wish JK Rowling was willing to tell in full. (If we’re lucky, Pottermore will reveal to us a wealth more of information.) What we do get grows throughout the series, but here are a few things we do know that place her on this list for me:
- + befriended the unfriendly, loner boy in the neighborhood
- + severe dislike for bullies of any kind
- + constantly stood up for what she believed in, no matter who she’s standing up against
- + she’s good friends with a werewolf and doesn’t think less of him for it
- + most everyone only ever had great things to say about her
- + brilliant (prefect, Head Girl)
- + alongside her husband, defied Voldemort THREE times
- + died saving her son because of as much love as she could ever muster
I think it would be easy to pick out a few more literary heroines that I like. Lily Bart, from The House of Mirth (though she’s more tragic, less kick-ass), Miranda from Life as We Knew It, and Kivrin from Doomsday Book, to name a few others.