New Nonfiction (with commentary): 16 March 2015
Only One Thing Can Save Us, by Thomas Geoghegan

How to Be a Heroine

So here's the thing about blogging about books:

Sometimes you just don't feel like it.

Last night I was sitting there, trying to figure out what to say about Samantha Ellis's memoir How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much. And for some reason--not least because I was having one of those nights when a. I couldn't form a coherent sentence to save my life, and b. I also couldn't summarize a pretty basic nonfiction book to save my life*--I thought, you know, I read this book, and it was okay, but there really wasn't that much (for me) to say about it.

I can say this: I got this book because I am a sucker for books about reading, writing, literary characters, or really, anything "book." And I stuck with it because I almost always finish any "book about books" that I read. Ellis is a serviceable writer and seems to be a likable person; in this memoir she mixes memories of growing up in a tightly knit Iraqi Jewish expat community in London (as well as coming-of-age and love stories) with her memories of literary heroines she has known. Here she is talking about Anne of Green Gables, and Anne's love interest Gilbert Blythe:

"He has roguish hazel eyes and a teasing smile and he likes pinning girls' braids to their chairs. But when he calls Anne 'carrots' (not knowing that red hair is her greatest affliction; as great an affliction as my failure to go blonde), she cracks a slate over his gorgeous head. No amount of apologies will melt her heart. She takes a whole book to forgive him, and two more to consent to becoming more than his friend. But they do eventually marry. For me, growing up among a lot of arranged marriages, it was a revelation that you could marry a man who was also a friend--and that a man might want a woman who was his intellectual equal; in the years when they are enemies, rivalry with Gilbert spurs Anne on to work harder than ever at school, and they're always battling to be top of their class. I was already starting to feel that boys were supposed to be clever and girls were supposed to be pretty, so I found this deeply reassuring." (pp. 38-39.)

Huh. And here's the other thing about book blogging: sometimes it allows you to take a moment and appreciate something you've read. Just typing that quote made me think, you know, this wasn't my favorite book ever, but it was kind of a good little read.** Give it a try.

*A better review of the book I'm talking about can be found at The Guardian.

**And it was nice to read it during March, which is Women's History Month.