Friday, August 5, 2011
Review of 'The Heroines'
The cover of my edition portrays a woods in which great heroines of fiction are lounging. Hester Prynne (with Pearl) and Scarlett O'Hara are the easiest to discern. The concept behind the book is something like Inkheart: the Heroines appear to Anne-Marie Entwhistle, take up residence in her inn and subsequently torment and fascinate her 13-year-old daughter Penny. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina each make an appearance, as do J.D. Salinger's Franny and Emily Bronte's Catherine Earnshaw.
Catherine was the most problematic for a teenage Anne-Marie; for Penny, it's Deidre, the tragic Heroine of a Celtic ballad. Each of these Heroines brings with them a Hero, and this complication causes Penny's life to become more like a chapter from Girl, Interrupted.
The author, Eileen Favorite, is an instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. That in itself appeals to me, as does her fictional blend of whimsy, second wave feminism and angsty YA soul-searching. The novel questions the nature of reality itself in an almost Buddhist fashion, giving it fascinating depth. I expected something more humorous, less tragicomic, but I'm pleasantly surprised.
I also like the opening quote, from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: "Alas, if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?"
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Image: Mary Hallock Foote, 1878 (public domain).