Books That Matter is all about introducing you to stories and characters that will empower and inspire you. These are some of our absolute favourite Strong Female Leads!
Literature has provided us with a wealth of kickass female protagonists whose wit, intelligence and resilience have inspired readers for years, decades and even centuries. Highlighting all the female characters who have inspired me would fill a book in itself so here are just a handful of my favourites.
Matilda – The Precocious Female Lead
Roald Dahl’s six-year-old Matilda is a wonderful character and I think this novel should be required reading for all young girls. She is fiercely intelligent, stands up for herself and for what is right while maintaining her humility, child-like optimism and innocence. Born into the dull and unambitious Wormwood family, who do everything they can to make her more like them, Matilda never loses sight of who she is finding strength and solace in books. There is an added supernatural element to the tale which only further highlights Matilda’s strength of character and wisdom far beyond her years.
Quotable Quote: “The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She traveled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”
Elizabeth Bennet – The Alpha Female Lead
One thing no one could ever accuse Elizabeth Bennet of being is a delicate little flower and I’m betting Mr Darcy had no idea what he was getting himself into when he declared on first seeing her that she was not “handsome enough to tempt him”. Lizzie is a true feminist and, in Pride and Prejudice, she chooses her self first even under pressure from her family to accept a proposal from someone she barely likes let alone loves. When she eventually does marry it’s because she wants to and the relationship stems from a place of love and mutual respect.
Quotable Quote: “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
Offred – The Revolutionary Female Lead
Offred, despite holding views that conflict with the laws of Gilead, is allowed to live because her fertility makes her too valuable to simply snuff out. Resolute and defiant, she uses what few freedoms she has left to fight for a better future for herself and her children. Her resistance is often quiet resulting in small wins that help her to keep her resolve in her darkest moments. These tiny victories build and in time become greater than the sum of their parts. When Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, she didn’t just write a phenomenal novel, she started a movement. Protests against legislation that limits women’s choices often feature women dressed in the scarlet red dress and white hood worn by the handmaids of Gilead. This is the power of Offred – she is a symbol of female strength and resilience.
Quotable Quote: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
Ifemelu – The Observant Female Lead
Americanah is a delight to read despite some of the heavy topics it tackles and much of that is down to the observational humour of our leading lady Ifemelu. Her take on race in America and black women’s hair, among other things, made me laugh and sigh in recognition. Americanah is ultimately a love story but it is so much more because of the complexity and layers that Adichie lends to the character of Ifemelu. If you read Americanah for her blog posts alone you’re bound to learn something from this much-loved novel.
Quotable Quote: “In America, racism exists but racists are all gone. Racists belong to the past. Racists are the thin-lipped mean white people in the movies about the civil rights era […] maybe it’s time to just scrap the word “racist.” Find something new. Like Racial Disorder Syndrome. And we could have different categories for sufferers of this syndrome: mild, medium, and acute.”
Queenie – The Female Lead We’re All Rooting For
Candice Carty-Williams’ creation is a fantastic fresh voice from the kind of character I’ve never come across before in fiction – a young black British woman working in London and just trying to figure things out. Some of the choices Queenie makes are jaw dropping. Reading the book, I often found myself shaking my head in disbelief as she searched for acceptance in all the wrong places.Thankfully she has a squad of friends – the amazing Corgis – who tell her what she needs to hear even if she doesn’t always want to hear it! Queenie is the younger version of ourselves we wish we could go back in time and tell they were beautiful and didn’t need male validation. We are protective of Queenie because there is an element of her in all of us and when she wins, we all win.
Quotable Quote: “The road to recovery is not linear. It’s not straight. It’s a bumpy path, with lots of twists and turns. But you’re on the right track.”
Written by Rachel Matthews