The Heroines, by Eileen Favorite, has been sitting on my bookshelf for months. I finally blew the dust off and cracked the cover for the first time. I found this book at the dollar store for the price you would pay for a book at a garage sale. It was well worth every penny, all 107 of them. I’ve heard it said that you can’t judge a book by its cover, so I guess you also can’t judge one based on where you bought it. I was surprised by how good it was. It quickly became one of my favorite books.
The story is about 13-year-old Penny Entwhistle, a rebellious, physically awkward girl who has a typical love/hate relationship with her mother who runs a bed and breakfast. Her teen angst seems typical at first, but her relationship issues with her mother stem from the attention her mother gives to the inn’s guest—Madame Bovary, Scarlet O’ Hara, and Catharine Earnshaw, to name a few. If the names sound familiar, it’s because they are all heroines from novels who arrive at the inn to take a break from their stories. They sip tea, whine, and swoon until they return to their own plots. For the most part, Penny stays out of their lives, because interfering with the heroines could change their stories, but when one heroine, Deirdre, lingers too long, Penny becomes jealous of the attention her mother gives her and decides to get rid of her. So Penny embarks on a journey almost as tragic as the heroines’ stories.
The novel has appearances from some of literature’s greatest leading ladies. There was one heroine in particular that I wished had stayed at the inn, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, but there is a funny scene with Scarlett O’ Hara—probably one of the most dramatic heroines of all time.
For those of us who don’t like to wait for the story to get going, the plot starts promptly on page seven. The story cuts right to the chase—a chase in the woods that is. By page 72, we find our main character in a psych ward. There’s never a dull moment, and I was engrossed until the end. I actually don’t care for the end though. The author wraps everything up in an Epilogue, explaining what happened to every character and what happened years later. I hate that.
The storytelling is excellent and the plot itself is one of a kind. I really liked how the author pays attention to sensory detail, describing the smells and sounds and sights in every scene. And the characters and their interactions are so natural and realistic, especially Penny and her mother. I recommend this book, especially to those like me who took literature courses in college. It was pleasantly nostalgic revisiting heroines from great literary works and meeting new ones.