Book Review: The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls by Erin Blakemore

Title: The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder
Author: Erin Blakemore
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from publisher for tour with TLC Book Tours
First line: In times of struggle there are as many reasons not to read as there are to breathe.

Cover blurb: Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, Scout Finch – the literary canon is brimming with intelligent, feisty, never-say-die heroines and celebrated female authors. They placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family, not unlike women of today. When they were up against the wall, authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott fought back – sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions.

Witty, informative, and inspiring – full of beloved heroines and the remarkable writers who created them – The Heroine’s Bookshelf explores how the pluck and dignity of literary characters such as Jane Eyre and Lizzy Bennet can encourage modern women, showing them how to tap into their new strengths and live life with intelligence and grace. From Zora Neale Hurston to Colette, Laura Ingalls Wilder to Charlotte Bronte, Harper Lee to Alice Walker, here are authors whose spirited stories and characters are more inspiring today than ever.

When I was a young girl, I had a girls’ Bible that had a topical section in the back. It had a list that read: “If you’re afraid, read these verses. If you’re having trouble with a friend, read these verses. If you’re feeling unlovely, read these verses.” It helped me during those tween years that can be so difficult. As an adult, I know which verses are the most comfort to me, and so don’t need a list like that anymore, but I still remember it.

In many ways, The Heroine’s Bookshelf reminds me of that Bible. Of course, I’m not saying that it’s divinely inspired, but it is definitely a book that can act as a guide through some of the difficult things we face as adult women. Erin Blakemore has drawn inspiration, encouragement, determination, and hope from the stories of these characters and their authors, and fortunately, she has shared that with us.

Are you wondering who you are, or how to be the person you know you are? Maybe you’re struggling to hold on to your faith in the face of overwhelming circumstances. Do you want to learn how to be happy, no matter what life brings? Or are you trying to hold on to family ties in spite of dysfunction? Blakemore gives you a guide to the books that will inspire you and encourage you in each of these situations – and many more.

Each chapter focuses on a different issue – faith, ambition, happiness, dignity, compassion, and so on – and explores how the heroine from a particular book can give us a map to follow as we navigate the obstacles and twists that life throws our way. She also delves into the lives of the authors, and explores the reasons they wrote these particular stories. I found the inside information on authors like Louisa May Alcott, Alice Walker, Betty Smith, and Frances Hodgson Burnett to be fascinating. Understanding the circumstances in the author’s life gives such depth and clarity to a book, especially a book that has a personal connection for the reader.

As I read each chapter, I found myself wanting to reread the associated book – or, in some cases, read it for the first time. Reading the chapter on Gone With the Wind surprised me, because I really hate the movie, and have never wanted to read the book. I am now determined to give it a try. I also experienced a longing to reread other books, books that Blakemore didn’t mention, but whose heroines call to me anyway: Persusasion, Kristin Lavransdatter, I Capture the Castle. It is truly the best kind of book that can do that.

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17 Responses to Book Review: The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls by Erin Blakemore

  1. Patti Smith
    Twitter: PattiRSmith

    gotta have this…some of those women are the very reasons I actually made it through my pre-teen and teenage years with some semblance of sanity…can’t wait to read!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Patti – I hope you get a chance to read it soon. The stories of the authors are often heartbreaking, but ultimately inspiring.

  2. Stephanie says:

    I definitely want to read this one. I hope you give Gone with the Wind a try. The book is phenomenal.

  3. Melissa
    Twitter: myeclecticbooks

    I guess GWTW is a polarizing book! I hated it! And thus vowed never to watch the movie…thinking of giving in though!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Melissa – I hate the movie – I have a problem with b*tchy main characters, and I find Scarlett so completely unlikable in the film that I’ve never wanted to try the book. We’ll see – I’m thinking I might give it a try sometime in 2012.

  4. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    This sounds fabulous – almost like a comfort read.

  5. Kailana says:

    I have been wanting to read this book. I am thinking I will have to get my hands on a copy one of these days.

  6. I’ve heard so many good things about this book I really must check it out. Although I’m worried it’ll only add to my TBR πŸ™‚

  7. Pingback: Erin Blakemore, author of The Heroine’s Bookshelf, on tour November/December 2011 | TLC Book Tours

  8. I had a Bible like that as well, and I used to love checking out the verses for each situation.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one! Thanks for being on the tour.

  9. Pingback: “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” by Erin Blakemore | Melody & Words

  10. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – December 4, 2011 (the “November reading wrap-up” edition) | BOOKS AND MOVIES