Who doesn’t love a blog poll? This time last year, I asked you to choose between five fictional heroines to mark International Women’s Day, and I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d have another bash, especially when I realised that World Book Day falls only a few days before International Women’s. I’ll admit that I haven’t ploughed systematically through a whole twelve months of reviews to select my shortlist, but I think this year’s five are a good representation of the range of heroic female characters we might encounter on the page. I’m presenting them in alphabetical order and, remember, it you don’t have to have read the books, or even the reviews, to vote.
In a country that regards her sexuality as an abomination, and reeks violent retribution on those who don’t comply, Ijeoma, the central character in Under the Udala Trees, defies the church, her mother and convention to discover how she can truly love.
Nora in The Woman Upstairs is an artist, empathic early-years teacher, and loyal friend. She’s also enraged at a thoughtless betrayal, but this might just be the making of her.
After a fatal car accident of which she has no memory, Pilgrim travels to Africa where, in confronting her own guilt and shame for what she’s done, she faces up to the dark side of being human in Melanie Finn’s novel, Shame.
In The Wolf Border, Rachel confronts her own wildness as well as that of the landscape when she accepts a job reintroducing wolves into the English countryside, while going on to have a child alone.
My flash fiction piece A Place of Safety is about a librarian. It features a social worker too. For my 99-word story in response to the latest prompt from Charli Mills I’ve combined the two to explore the low-key social service libraries provide. The resulting transformation is exaggerated for effect, I’ll admit, but not that much!
On Monday, she crouched in the corner, snarling at anyone who came too close. On Tuesday, she wandered between the shelves, rubbing a grubby hand along the spines. On Wednesday, she selected a book of poetry and sniffed each page. On Thursday, she plonked herself on a beanbag for story time with the reception kids. On Friday, she sat at a table and read a detective novel from beginning to end. On Saturday, she asked for a library card but we couldn’t supply one without an address. On Monday, she arrived clean and spruced, saying she wanted a job.