Why I Love… Strong women
On Sarah’s 11th birthday her wealthy family give her Hetty, her very own slave girl and so begins an incredible story of slavery, friendship, cruelty and courage. Set in America in the 19th Century this book is heart-breaking and yet awe-inspiring. Sarah and a number of other characters are based on real people who stood against the common thinking of the time and tried to turn the tide against slavery. I love reading about people who break boundaries because of their beliefs and who stand up against the evils they see around them. Some of the scenes are pretty hard to stomach but the story is so beautifully told that it will draw you in and leave you desperate to know how it turns out for Sarah, Hetty and all those around them.
Though in this book we see life through the eyes of five year old Jack, we are quickly introduced to his mum, Joy, and realise she is the only person he has ever met. They live together in Room and Jack has no understanding there is a whole world outside. Joy was a normal girl until the most horrendous of circumstances changed her life and that’s what’s amazing about her character. Despite the hell she continues to live in – Joy makes everything as normal as possible as she can for Jack. It’s amazing what you could survive if you had to. One of the things I loved was that she had moments of breakdown, when forcing herself to be OK for Jack’s sake became too much. That felt so real to me; being a strong woman isn’t about pretending life is all OK. Joy does what she needs to in order to survive and she gives Jack everything she has; nothing is stronger than a mother’s love.
This was one of my favourite reads of last year, a beautifully written story featuring two amazing sisters separated during the Second World War. Struggling to survive Vianne and Isabelle take wildly different paths as France is occupied, one forced to take the enemy into her home and the other considering becoming part of the Resistance. There are no easy choices as the women struggle to make it through each day, longing to see their country free again, and the book is a humbling and eye-opening read about the realities of war on those left behind. A heart-breaking but utterly compelling read that highlights the resilience of so many women.
Our heroine here is a real one as this book is part memoir of Caitlin’s life and part social commentary. She covers everything from the joys of puberty to the pressure women constantly face to have children. She tackles feminism and takes it from being something of a dirty word to something that is just common sense for every decent human being (“it’s just everyone being polite”). Chances are you won’t agree with what she says on every topic but you’ll no doubt find yourself fascinated by her opinions, entertained by her stories and laughing at her honest and hilarious observations.
She may be a daydreamer prone to disasters but Anne is nothing if not feisty. This orphaned girl captures the heart of every reader who meets her so if you’ve not given her a try yet don’t be put off by how old the book is – some things stand the test of time! In a world of cynicism you can’t help but lap up Anne’s romantic nature and innocent fantasies, if you live in a concrete jungle like me, you’ll love the stunning surroundings of Prince Edward Island, if you need something to make you smile you can’t help but love Anne’s ability to get herself into trouble, and if you love romance – no other relationship in fiction can touch that of Anne and Gilbert. Anne will forever be my favourite heroine; she never lets life’s disappointments break her, she stays optimistic and keeps dreaming, she sacrifices for those she loves and she refuses to quit.
Liza’s first novel More Than Enough is out now and was voted ‘Mumsnet Best’ by Mumsnet readers. She lives in Hertfordshire, works part-time for a charity, can easily lose hours on Pinterest and spends much of her life helping people spell and pronounce her Dutch surname (think Hook-smar).
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