The second nomination is Bethany in Peyton Marshall’s futuristic thriller, Goodhouse. At significant risk to herself, teenage Bethany defies convention, and the wishes of her father, to penetrate the brutally-run corrective institution for children with criminal genes and save the life and sanity of one of the inmates, the unfortunate James.
My third heroine is less dramatic than either Jenny or Bethany, but no less deserving of the name. Tess Lohan, the main character of Mary Costello’s debut novel, Academy Street, lives her life with a quiet dignity, bearing her trials and tribulations with a certain stoicism, serving others in her work as a nurse and asking little for herself.
The oldest heroine I’ve chosen is Maud, the narrator of Emma Healey’s Costa award winning first novel, Elizabeth Is Missing. Despite her failing memory, Maud is determined to solve the mystery of her missing friend, Elizabeth. Never mind that she’s been told time and again while Elizabeth isn’t at home, she has an admirable persistence which leads to the revolution of another genuine mystery: what happened to her beloved sister who disappeared during the war.
Finally, I’d like to propose a historical heroine, and the only one of the group created by a male writer, Dave Boling, author of The Undesirables. Another teenager, Aletta Venter manages to tolerate the confinement, deprivation and loss of being transported to a tented concentration camp across the South African veld, even fitting in a scrap of adolescence normalcy with a forbidden romance.
“There’s this book, right? Something about purple?” The girl addressed her words to the counter instead of to me.
“Alice Walker, The Color Purple,” I said. “You’re in luck. A copy’s just come in.”
I strode across to the bookshelves. She shuffled behind me. “I already looked there.”
I found it between Turquoise and Aquamarine.
The girl stared as if I’d plucked a rabbit from a hat. “What’s the purple book with the turquoise books?”
The manager wanted everything alphabetical. This teenager knew better. “I was keeping it for someone who really needs to read it. Someone like you.”
I don’t like to bias the poll, but I imagined it taking place in Jenny Pepper’s charity bookshop. What do you think?