Top 5 Female Literary Characters

Book Reviews

@Avalonsportal asked me a question today. A really tough one which I had to think about. A lot.

The question was: Who are your top 5 female characters?

There’s a couple of reasons why I had to think about this. The first being is I actually found it hard to come up with five female characters who left that much of an impression on me, I’d want to put them on a list. This is a sad state of affairs I know which is why I had to write a blog post about it to explain myself. The second reason is I wondered what impressions people would have of me if I wrote these characters down. Does it reflect my personality more than it should? Would you think bad of me? Probably which is was why it was a bit scary writing it down.

I did it anyway and this has led me to two confessions:

  • I’m a pretty eclectic reader. I will happily pick up a chick lit just as much as a classic. However, are those chick lits going to leave a lasting impression on me and feature on my most loved lists? Unlikely. In addition, the genre I get on most with is fantasy. And fantasy as a general rule tends to have lots of strong, interesting male characters and be written by men – the classics at least.
  • Secondly, my go to sub-genre is nearly always historical. I’m a sucker for medieval romps, kings and queens, women shuffling around in beautiful long dresses and swooning at the feet of men or outwitting them in some clever dual of minds. I’ve no idea what this says about me. God only knows. Maybe I just want to be a queen and live in a castle. My husband would probably say so. However, by placing a women further back in history you naturally, in my mind anyway, make her more interesting. Women way back then had a lot of shit to deal with for a start. I mean often they were just objects or worse pawns to be shuffled around at men’s whims. Which gives them opportunity to be sneakier, cleverer and braver to outwit a world where they were effectively regarded as second-class citizens. I also love a woman with a bit of gumption and one who is particularly naughty as a result. What did Jack Nicholson’s character in the Shining say. “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” If women don’t have enough conflict to play against in the novel or film, they end up being a bit dull for me.

So that’s why you’ll find most of the women on my list carrying some of these characteristics:

Arabella - Jude the Obscure
Love a good common wench and Arabella fits the bill for me. She’s not intelligent, complex or particularly worthy but these are not the things I need to love about her. I love the fact she’s practical, shrewd and determined. She understands women as shown on several occasions with Sue and can please men by flirty good-natured dark humour – which also means she can outwit them easily with it. Life is too short for Arabella, so she marches on regardless.

Anna Karenina
Anna begins the book as a vibrant and beautiful young woman who is married to a man she doesn't really love but at least respects. It is not until she falls passionately in love with Vronsky does her world unravel. She is smart and a little brave, and more than a bit naughty for societal rules for the time. Ultimately she cannot handle the stress of losing her place in society. But most of all I love her for actually trying to be something different from what she’s meant to be.

Arya – Game of Thrones
Where’s Arya? Lurking somewhere. I couldn’t have a top five without a fantasy gal and had to pick Arya. As this character has grown, I’ve hated her, loved her and then hated her some more. This is how you write a wonderful character – expose their flaws and let them mop it all up and come out on top. The fact she’s a sneaky bitch and physically powerful makes me love her even more.

Lady Chatterley – Lady Chatterley’s Lover
In my opinion, D.H. Lawrence was a master at the female character and exposing all its flaws. Maybe it was something to do with his close relationship with his mother who knows. Anyway, Lady Chatterley is the naughtiest of them all, sneaking off to the hunky game keepers shack for wild sex. I mean who wouldn’t? You throw off those 19th century shackles girl and to hell with it.

Alice – Alice in Wonderland
It was a toss up between Alice and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz but Alice won the day. It may seem a strange choice from all the others listed but I love Alice because she’s a really balanced character. She’s neither a brat nor an angel. She’s a polite, Victorian, middle class girl who shows up all the bad-mannered eccentricity of the characters she meets in Wonderland. Alice has common sense and good morals that eventually wins the day. Some say that Wonderland reflects Alice’s hidden personality. Well I damn hope so. Above all she is curious and anyone who is super curious makes a brilliant character.

I’m sure there’s cries of no Austen, or contemporary fantasy like Katniss from the Hunger Games. Or worse still how could you miss out Hermione from HP? With the exception of HP, which I haven’t read, I find some of the women in these novels, well, a bit wishy washy. I could put Katniss on there from the Hunger Games. I mean she has all the right gumption, fight against conflict, the bow and arrow etc etc, but she strikes me as a bit bland and sometimes a little insincere. Or maybe I’m thinking too much of the actress who plays her. And as for Austen, brilliant characters, brilliantly written but ultimately the women are just not naughty enough for my liking.

Please don’t judge me! The two books I have written so far all have strong female character leads. Go figure.

Who are your favourite top 5 female characters?


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