How to be a heroine - and get a bunch of new female friends

It's the kind of book I gobbled up, wanting to go slow to savour it - but unable to stop

Share

I’ve been catching up with some old friends of late, and, I hope, have met some new ones. They’re all women (or girls) and they’ve all been introduced, or reintroduced, to me by a writer called Samantha Ellis. Her new book, “How to be a Heroine (Or, what I’ve learned from reading too much)”, is about the fictional female characters who have an important place in her life as well as on her bookshelf.

Some of Ellis’s heroines - Jane Eyre, Cathy Earnshaw, Katy Carr, Lizzie Bennet, Flora Poste - are great pals of mine, too. Some I’d never heard of but would very much like to get to know - Franny Glass, Lolly Willowes, Mary Yellan - and some I’ve heard of, but haven’t ever spent any time with - Scarlett O’Hara, the “Ballet Shoes” gals. Ellis introduces them warts and all, explaining how she felt about them when they first met, how they’ve inspired or annoyed her over the years and the role they’ve played in her life so far.

Hers is the best kind of book: one that I gobbled up, wanting to go slow to savour it but unable to stop reading until it was all gone. One that made me want to run to the bookshop to buy copies of novels I’ve never got round to reading and devour those, too.

The other old acquaintance I reconnected with recently is my namesake. Gorgeous, horrible, (SPOILER ALERT) murdered Rebecca De Winter, Daphne Du Maurier’s great creation who my mother named me after (something I’m still not sure whether to be honoured or worried about). Mum is a huge fan of the Hitchcock film and forced me to watch some of it the other day for the first time. Having read the book a few times over the years, associating first, as a teenager, with the nameless young narrator who had form for sobbing like a One Direction fan, and later with the rather more swashbuckling Rebecca, it was strange to see the characters on screen. Except for the heroine (well, possibly the anti-heroine - Rebecca was a total cow) who is only ever described by others. never seen herself. Poor Rebecca. No wonder she’s so vile. Never getting a chance to put her side across while everyone slagged her off.

Still, while she’s one of my favourite characters, I don’t think of her as a friend. Too mad, too bad and definitely too dangerous to know. 

Samantha Ellis, on the other hand, is someone who I’d very much like to have as a friend. So it’s lucky that I can dip into “How to be a Heroine” and meet up with her and the girls whenever I like.

twitter.com/rebeccaj

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up