After receiving a wonderful review from (Elionor Jones), I was particularly encouraged by her remarks about some of the female characters in Beyond The Pyre.
More on that later because according to the Readers Digest and I guess a sizable list of readers, the following female fictional characters are said to be among the best of all time. That’s quite a claim to make when I think of many others I have loved as I read their stories. Not to mention (well I will at the end of this article) a few of my own.
Elizabeth (aka Lizzie or Eliza) Bennett
Elizabeth Bennett is the witty protagonist from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The second oldest of five daughters and, like the rest of her sisters, she’s not expected to marry for love, rather status and money. True to herself, she would rather stay single; a concept that was not generally acceptable at the time.
Her debut was in the 1930s but she remains one of the most iconic female characters. Conceived by Edward Stratemeyer, Nancy Drew’s character was ground-breaking because she wasn’t simply a pretty sidekick to a leading male counterpart. Instead, the bold, physically strong, and fiercely intelligent Nancy used her superior intellect to solve mysteries.
Josephine (Jo) March
Jo is a second eldest daughter and a central focus in the novel Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. At 15, she is strong-willed, confident, and literary. Unlike her sisters, she is outspoken and uninterested in marriage. Jo struggles with and defies society’s expectations of how women in the 19th century should carry themselves, making her one of literature’s most daring female characters.
My favourite on this particular list! She’s provocative, intense, and probably bi-polar but, most people she meets simply label her crazy. Lisbeth has become one of the most intriguing female characters in literature. As a lead character in Stieg Larrson’s novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, she is a world-leading computer hacker with a photographic memory who fights to overcome a traumatic childhood and helps solve a complicated series of mysteries. Her uncompromising moral code can be shocking but, devastating to those who find themselves on her radar.
Frequently collects ten points for Gryffindor, but Hermione is much more than a very intelligent young woman. As the lead female character in the Harry Potter stories and in my humble opinion was superbly cast in the films. Her keen intellect and powerful memory are consistently evident, sometimes to the dismay of her friends, who often think she’s bossy and annoying. The Muggle-born Hermione transforms from an eager, know-it-all 11-year-old to a confident, loyal, and brave heroine.
Celie is both the narrator and protagonist of the outstanding novel, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. At the hands of her father and then, later, by her husband, Celie is a lonely, dejected, emotionally and physically mistreated victim. Through the power of love and forgiveness, Celie finds her own strength and transforms into a confident, independent, and compassionate woman.
Katniss Everdeen is a contemporary icon. Strong, determined, and fiercely loyal, she is a highly skilled archer and hunter who becomes a leader in the rebellion against the tyranny of the Capitol. By the end of The Hunger Games 3, Katniss becomes a reluctant hero. A girl who was never ordinary who found courage and compassion under constant life-threatening circumstances.
One of the lead females in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, Arya is a small, fiery force to be reckoned with. Tough with a capital T, the fiercely independent Arya outwardly scorns “noble” female hobbies like sewing and dancing in favour of sword fighting and horseback riding.
I think Martin must have met my youngest daughter. However, adding more of Arya’s stories might result in spoilers for some so I will be kind and stop here.
Now on to a few of my own superwomen in Beyond The Pyre. . .
“I also loved the female characters in the book! I love strong female characters, and this book was full of them. The main female characters were Catharine, from modern-day Britain, Sophie, a French Catholic supporter, and Elionor, a Catholic who supported peace between the faiths. Personally, my favourite of these characters was Elionor, and I loved the banter that went on between Elionor and her husband with regards to women’s position.
Catharine was also a strong female lead, and I liked again how Ben saw her as his equal, and the links between the two couples throughout were interesting and, often, adorable. I thought the fact that the 13th and 21st century couples mirrored each other was also a great element.
‘He knew that ventures into the spirit world could be draining, and Catharine never did things by halves.’”
Ask any writer about the value of reviews and they will tell you something on the lines of, ‘they are like gold.’ Of course they give the ego a pat on the back but they also inform us and help us to improve. Especially if the reviewers are honest about our work, which is exactly what Eleanor Jones gave me when she reviewed Beyond The Pyre; plenty to think about.
What she also gave me was a wonderful reminder relating to the personal side of me.
I was a child of the sixties brought up in a loving family with traditional values. Not much changed until I went to work at British Aerospace where I saw and worked with many women in positions of authority. Some were exceptionally independent; others accepted and bowed to the male dominated higher management. I began to challenge the status quo and found myself in frequent deep-water for doing so.
Moving on to university in the early 80’s and possibly influenced by Thatcher there was a huge increase in ‘feminism’ and sadly some of it was so extreme it turned away some men who were potential supporters. The debate on my course alone was often fiery and led to feelings of us and them.
Looking back, a little change has occurred and realistically, the 80’s explosion has settled and it at least started better recognition of women. There is still a very long way to go before real equality is achieved and I believe it needs to be approached from all aspects of life. Here’s one reason why I like to have strong female characters in my novels.
From a spiritual point of view I believe we are all equal and none are more equal than others (Sorry Mr Orwell), hence the balance between Elionor and Louis who spent much time in a Cathar community where the prevailing belief was equality. Catharine and Ben in the 21st Century practiced their own equality, or, did they carry it with them through the ages?
I’ve only mentioned two female characters but there are others for another day and some in my children’s novel Horando.
What do you think? Who is your number one female character?
I will leave you to consider the featured image that could well be Serdica from Beyond The Pyre.