Literary Ladies

Today?is World Book Day and this Saturday marks International Women's Day, so we've decided to mark the occasions with a selection of our favourite female heroines in literature. Consummate readers Jeanne and Roisin have rounded up the chick lit gals, the teen queens and the classic literary ladies you need to familiarise yourself with.

Get ready to do your wallet some harm and your brain some good.

Mia Thermopolis, The Princess Diaries

Meg Cabot's best-selling series was the crack cocaine of our teenage years. Mia is the gawky diarist who finds out she's actually the princess of a central European principality. Which is a bit much when you're trying to conquer the crush you have on your best friend's brother and coming to terms with the fact your mother has started dating your algebra - that's maths to us - teacher. There's ten novels proper and about a million in-between novellas tracking her journey from wallflower to confident princess-in-waiting. If you need to buy books for any young cousins or nieces in the next few months add these to your basket and watch the self-actualisation unfold before your eyes. JS

Emma Morley, One Day

Advertisement

Okay, Anne Hathaway's portrayal of Emma in the One Day movie may have divided and mostly disappointed but we fell in friendship love with the girl in the book. Dubious taste in men, a mostly disastrous twenties with a working stint in a dead end burrito bar, creative ambitions that seem to be floundering and the feeling that everyone else seems to be figuring it out with an accompanying salary? David Nicholl's very modern love story, which drops into the lives of two college friends and perhaps soulmates every year on July 15th, gifted us with a very modern heroine who is trying to find her way in the world. JS

Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

One of literature's most enduring heroines is witty, enjoys long walks, gives as good as she gets and ends up nabbing the most attractive man in literature after telling him to clean up his snobby act. Ten thousand a year and a mansion in Derbyshire? No brainer. JS

Grace Reeves, Unsticky

That genre that people try to dismiss as 'chick lit' is constantly getting a judgmental wrap, which is why I'm championing Grace Reeves, the protagonist in journalist Sarra Manning's 2009 novel Unsticky. Grace is a young Londoner on the bottom rung of the fashion industry ladder, seriously in debt, a magnet for terrible indie musician boyfriends, trying to hold it all together and on the way to failing miserably. After being dumped in the department store Libertys on her 23rd?birthday she's rescued from further public humiliation by an older and wealthy art dealer, Vaughn, who offers her a tempting yet morally dubious opportunity. Forget the Fifty Shades comparisons, this is the evil cousin of Confessions of a Shopaholic and offers a genuinely insightful commentary on young people struggling in the recession. JS

Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Inky hair, the computer hacking skills and no bullshit attitude- this avenging angel crashed onto the public consciousness in 2008 and hasn't left the bookshelves since. A tattooed and talented investigator with a deeply traumatic past, she teams up with journalist Mikael Blomkvist to unravel the secrets rotting Swedish society. Miss Marple she ain't. JS

Advertisement

Anna Karenina,?Anna Karenina

One of Tolstoy's greatest creations, she takes on all the struggles of the Victorian heroine as she makes her fraught choices in the face of societal convention and banishment. Her love affair with Vronsky has to be one of the most memorable literary romances and who can forget the most tear-jerking and devastating ending to any novel ever! RA

Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird

Curious, clever and with a keen sense for any injustice, To Kill A Mockingbird's tomboy heroine is one of those timeless characters that live on in the back of your mind from the first time you read the book in school. Her discovery of Boo Radley and all the other great unknowns of the world, creates one of the most memorable snapshots of childhood of any novel. RA

Isabel Archer, The Portrait of a Lady

The entire collection of Henry James's intelligent, brave and tragically flawed characters belong on the list, but Isabel was perhaps the prototype. Her elegant disregard and self-awareness are what make her such an anchor among female characters. In The Portrait of a Lady she famously pronounces the true spirit of all the Jamesian women in answer to her aunt's questions about her life choices - ??But I always want to know the things one shouldn't do.""So as to do them?" asked her aunt. "So as to choose" - Spoken like a lady. RA

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games

Advertisement

Katniss is a cultural sensation and the ultimate antidote to Twilight's limp Bella Swan. She is calm and collected in the face of a violent dystopian government doesn't let her love triangle travails get in the way of survival and everyone's imaginary best friend Jennifer Lawrence has brought her inspirational spirit to the masses. Also, she's a dab hand with a bow and arrow. JS

Thoughts? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter who your literary heroines are...

The image newsletter