When I was re-reading the wonderful 84 Charing Cross Road last month, this bit caught my eye:

“You’ll be fascinated to learn (from me that hates novels) that I finally got around to Jane Austen and went out of my mind over Pride & Prejudice which I can’t bring myself to take back to the library till you find me a copy of my own.”

As much as Miss Helene Hanff might usually prefer essays and treatises and diaries, even she is smitten with the heroines of Pride and Prejudice.

So much so, in fact, that she loans the volume to a young friend of hers; and she, too, went “out of her mind for Jane Austen”.

So the delightfully bookish Miss Hanff asks her loyal bookseller at 84 Charing Cross Road to do what needs doing.

“She [aforementioned young friend] has a birthday round about Hallowe’en, can you find me some Austen for her? If you’ve got a complete set let me know the price, if it’s expensive I’ll make her husband give her half and I’ll give her half.”

This happened in 1968, but it could have happened at any time really.

Such is the tremendous and resounding appeal of heroines in literature.

Such is the contagious and spirited love of bookishness.

If something of this resonates with you, you likely already know about Erin Blakemore’s The Heroine’s Bookshelf, but, if you don’t, take note that the Canadian paperback edition of it is released today.

Erin, too, has a fondness for Pride and Prejudice; Lizzy Bennet is the first heroine the author considers in her volume of “life lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder”.

Lizzy Bennet, Janie Crawford*, Anne Shirley, Celie, Francie Nolan, Claudine, Scarlett O’Hara, Scout Finch, Laura Ingalls, Jane Eyre, Jo March, Mary Lennox: such is the heroine-stuff that Erin’s book is made of.

As much as many of these works are now considered classics, The Heroine’s Bookshelf is not academic writing. And you don’t already need to have a relationship with these women to enjoy reading this book.

You don’t even have to know what it’s like to find a heroine in the pages of a book you’re reading. (Indeed, if you haven’t, this book might be exactly what you need.) You just have to believe it’s possible.

And, even if you have already been friends with these women on the page? The Heroine’s Bookshelf reminds you what that was like; it brings out the bookishness of that relationship.

It makes you think — even, rethink — your relationships with your literary heroines. (I discovered that I am not the same reader that I was when I listed Scarlet O’Hara as one of my literary heroines.)

Well, you probably didn’t need all that convincing. I probably had you with the reference to 84 Charing Cross Road.

But if you are convinced…if you would like a copy of the new paperback edition for your very own, leave a bookish thought on the subject of literary heroines below.

(Small print: You have until midnight EST, November 29, 2011 to do so.)
(More small print: The book must be shipped to an address in either Canada or the United States.)

And, finally, when you’re crossing your bookish fingers that you’ll win, send a quiet thanks to Harper Perennial, which is funding this offer; I’m wholebookheartedly thanking them and Erin for inviting me to be part of the fun.

* If you would like an introduction to Janie, or to renew your relationship with this literary heroine, consider joining Erin’s Read-a-long for Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, beginning November 28th.

PLEASE NOTE: COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED. A winner’s name will soon be selected. Thanks so very much for taking part in all-things-heroine.