It will come as little surprise to most of you that I love to read. If and when I have a spare evening, or a long journey, or even a quick ten minutes in the bath, I am often in the company of a good book. I love to escape to a brand new place, to be taken far away. My favourite books are a mismash of happy books, sad books, “cool” books, woefully uncool books, but there are many I can turn to again and again – books like Join Me, High Fidelity, Yes Man, Love Is A Mixtape, and the three books that inspired this post.
The three books I’m talking about contain a bevvy of female characters who I love and cherish, in whom I see glimpses of myself and the girls around me, who have characteristics I admire or covet or try to avoid, in a few cases! They are books I have read a lot, discussed a lot, and thought about a lot. They are also all books I own film adaptations or television dramas of.
The first of these books is Little Women. Oh man, how I love this book. The story of the four March girls and their family is one I’ve loved since girlhood, and one I go back to again and again. I can’t wait to share this book with the wee folk I know once they are out of nappies. Growing up, I was definitely a Jo – an impetuous bookworm, a tomboy, not a girly girl, but as I entered my twenties, I realised I was becoming less of a Jo and more of a Meg. Yes, Meg. Steady, dependable, kind, sweet Meg is now the character I empathise with the most in Little Women. With adults’ eyes I can still appreciate the humour and loyalty and bravery of Jo, but I’ve grown into a new appreciation of Meg. She’s clever and brave in her own way, but her priorities and motivations are different. Not for Meg huge adventures or bright rages. Her joys are friends and family and helping people and kindness. And as simplistic and plain as they may be, I have to admit, those are my joys too. The younger March girls and Marmee are also great characters, and I’ve thought to myself before now (“Oh, that girl’s a bit of an Amy”, or “Shades of Jo, there!”). Marmee in particular I find an inspiration – if and when I have a family, I pray my offspring view me with even one-tenth of the love and respect shown to that character.
Book number two is a book I came very late to, in the scheme of things, but it’s one I’ve blogged on before. Pride and Prejudice. I first read this in my early twenties, and just fell in love with Austen’s style and the five Bennett girls (as someone who has always desired a big family herself, I also love the “brood” dynamic in this book). Kind, sweet, beautiful Jane; headstrong, clever, pretty Elizabeth; bookish, plain, worthy Mary; silly, easily led, secondary Kitty; and deceitful, proud, ridiculous Lydia. Everyone wants to be Elizabeth, right? Katie Boo thinks I’m Lizzie (cheers hon!). That quiz I did back in February seemed to think I was Jane. And I’ve certainly felt like Kitty before! I think Jane is very like Meg in Little Women, a girly girl, kind and sweet and loyal. And I think there are elements of that in my character, but I’m a little too hotheaded and sarcastic at times to be a true Jane. There are also parts of Lizzie in me, I can see – I’m honest and loyal to my friends and heaven knows I do like a walk! But again these are characters I love and know and can see in the people around me, along with various others of the cast (one of my make friends is *such* a Mr Bingley!). I love the affinity I have with this book. Sitting down to read it is like a cup of tea and a chat with a good friend – good for the soul!
The third book is the one I’m currently reading (I was asked to reread it for my reading challenge. Actually, all three of the books I’m chatting about today made the cut) and it is a looooooooooooooong book. 1006 pages, to be precise. Oh yeah, I’m talking about Gone With The Wind. GWTW is a flawed book in many ways, but it’s also dramatic and ambitious and if you’re willing to go with it, pretty darn awesome. And I LOVE the two central characters, Scarlett and Melanie. I first read this book in my early twenties, and oh, how I wanted to be a Scarlett. She’s brave and beautiful and ruthless and just…ace. But as I reread it, I find my aspirations have changed. Now I want to be like Melanie. Melly with her loyalty and kindness and good manners and warmth and hospitality. I always got that Melly was a “good” character, but now she’s the one I think I’d like to be like. Sure, it would be great to be Scarlett O’Hara, belle of the county, but I think I’d rather be Melanie. A bit like Marmee in Little Women, when I read about Melanie I see a few things I have and lots of values I share and many, many things to aspire to.
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Jane, Lizzie, Mary, Kitty, Lydia, Scarlett & Melanie. My literary sisters. there are other books I’ve read with characters I know well (Anne of Green Gables; Sense and Sensibility; Bridget Jones’ Diary; The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) but it’s the characters of Little Women, Pride & Prejudice and Gone With The Wind which call to me over and over, time and again. They are more than characters or friends…they are my literary sisters.