All books should be this much fun to read. In How To Be A Heroine, playwright Samantha Ellis revisits all of her favourite novels to answer the pressing question of who really was the best heroine – Jane Eyre or Catherine Earnshaw?
Anyone who’s spent their formative years with their faces buried in the pages of novels like Gone With The Wind, Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice and Lace will simply love How To Be A Heroine… which has even earned its own online quiz (Samantha and I are both Petrova Fossil from Ballet Shoes, by the way).
Part memoir of growing up in London with Iraqui-Jewish refugee parents, and part celebration of many of the most wonderful literary characters ever, How To Be A Heroine is a pure joy to read. It’s also made me compile a long list of novels I’ve yet to read (Riders, Franny and Zooey, Twilight…) that I can’t wait to get stuck into.
The idea of using well-loved novels to shape an autobiography is a lovely idea and works so effectively. Samantha clearly knows her subjects inside out and loves the characters dearly… those who propped her up during different times of her life and helped her sort out various dilemmas – surely, something all bookworms can identify with (I’m quite sure I’d be nowhere if I hadn’t had Judy Blume at my teenage elbow).
You’ll race through How To Be A Heroine as quickly as you raced through Valley Of The Dolls – and that’s no bad thing, simply a testament to how enjoyable and warm a book Samantha Ellis has written.