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The Heroines

The Heroines

A Novel

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Although a true lover of books, Anne-Marie Entwhistle prefers not to read to her spirited daughter, Penny, especially from the likes of Madame Bovary, Gone With the Wind, or The Scarlet Letter. These novels, devoted to the lives of the Heroines that make them so irresistible, have a way of hitting too close to home -- well, to the Homestead actually, where Anne-Marie runs the quaint family-owned bed and breakfast.

In this enchanting debut novel, Penny and her mother encounter great women from classic works of literature who make the Homestead their destination of choice just as the plots of their tumultuous, unforgettable stories begin to unravel. They appear at all hours of the day and in all manners of distress. A lovesick Madame Bovary languishes in their hammock after Rodolphe has abandoned her, and Scarlett O'Hara's emotions are not easily tempered by tea and eiderdowns. These visitors long for comfort, consolation, and sometimes for more attention than the adolescent Penny wants her mother to give.

Knowing that to interfere with their stories would cause mayhem in literature, Anne-Marie does her best to make each Heroine feel at home, with a roof over her head and a shoulder to cry on. But when Penny begins to feel overshadowed by her mother's indulgence of each and every Heroine, havoc ensues, and the thirteen-year-old embarks on her own memorable tale.

Eileen Favorite's lively, fresh, and enormously entertaining novel gives readers a chance to experience their favorite Heroines all over again, or introduces these fictional women so beguilingly that further acquaintance will surely follow. Narrated by the courageous and irreverent Penny, The Heroines will make book lovers rejoice.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416548119 | 
  • February 2009
List Price $16.99
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Author Revealed

Q. how did you come to write The Heroines?

A.
What inspires any author’s book is a mixture of the conscious and the unconscious, the imagined and the real, everything the author has read and written. For that reason, I know what precipitated the idea for The Heroines, but I cannot say that I completely understand or can name all the influences at work. I can, however, tell the story of how I came to write the book.

Ten months after my brother Eddie’s death, I arrived at Ragdale, a writer’s residency on a prairie in Lake Forest, Illinois. I had no project planned, but the reality of my brother’s death made me yearn for an escape into an imaginary realm. I was also wondering what constitutes a life well lived. I began the book imagining what would happen if a saint returned to contemporary America. When I put St. Therese of Lisieux in the same room as Penny, however, I found that St. Therese responded flawlessly to Penny’s every bad turn. I needed more tension.

At the time, I was reading, At-Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien. O’Brien brings back characters of Irish literature to interact with contemporary characters. So, I thought, let’s have Heroines appear at the Homestead. Flaws are what make characters interesting and create drama. O’Brien also discusses how writers deliberately make life tough for their characters and how unfair that is. Reading O’Brien poking fun at writers gave me the idea of providing great heroines a refuge, a break from their author’s deliberate tricks. This reprieve was terrific for the Heroines, but what effect would it have on the mother and daughter who housed them?

Visual images also inspired the book. Ragdale’s arts-and-crafts main house reminded me of the great manors that are the heroines’ rewards in 19th-century English novels. I wanted to twist this romantic and bourgeois notion by introducing magic into this setting. By attracting heroines from other novels, the Homestead is not Anne-Marie’s reward so much as her burden.

I also liked the image of a girl angrily marching through a beautiful prairie landscape, and the nightly expeditions I took in the prairie and woods behind Ragdale inspired the fairytale appearance of Conor, the King on Horseback. With Conor, I had discovered the plot “twist”: the arrival of a man to retrieve a heroine, and also several important themes: the conflict of what constitutes a hero; the power struggles between men and women; and the fallacy of the Knight in Shining Armor.

Differences in age, experience, and personality pull Penny and Anne-Marie apart. They respond to Conor in different ways, further widening the gap between mother and teenage daughter. How has being raised in a literature-driven household affected Penny? How has keeping secrets changed her? Does believing that fictitious characters are real make her a little crazy? Once these conceits were in place, the book took off of its own accord, leading me in directions I didn’t anticipate (the hospital) and toward a conclusion I didn’t foresee.

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