Female characters in literature seem to be killing it at the moment – they’re no longer there to fill a hole in the plot or to be romanced by a hunky male protagonist, they have genuine substance. In honour of that awesomeness, here are ten of the best and most inspiring female book characters.
1. Professor McGonagall – Harry Potter
It doesn’t take a genius to work out why this woman is on the list – well over seventy years old and still showing as many badass credentials as the young adults she fights next to, Professor McGonagall is proof that women don’t have to be spring chickens to be powerful. She’s strong, funny and wise throughout the whole series, and portrayed fabulously by Dame Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter movies.
2. Katy Carr – What Katy Did
Over the course of a short novel, reckless and clumsy Katy Carr is transformed into a mature, knowledgeable young lady, after a lot of frustration and many a day spent excruciatingly bed-bound. She learns her lessons, overcomes her stubbornness, and sits as a role model for her younger siblings. A bit clichéd, but still important for a children’s book.
3. Liesel Meminger – The Book Thief
Liesel is a nine-year-old girl who has been through a hell of a lot when we meet her, and has yet to experience so much more throughout her story in The Book Thief. Living in 1940s Germany, she is sent to live with a strange new family where she slowly becomes aware of the atrocities of war and of betrayal. Despite all this, she’s tough and somewhat boisterous amongst her new friends, showing the defensive, fierce spirit of a war-ridden girl.
4. Julia – 1984
Anyone who can survive for years under the omnipresent eye of Big Brother whilst breaking half of his rules deserves a bit of credit. Julia is fearless and embodies all things fierce; next to feeble and sickly Winston Smith she’s exotic and refuses to let the totalitarian state control her so completely as it does everybody else. Well, that is until she’s captured, tortured and eventually killed, of course.
5. Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games
Katniss is possibly the bravest character on the list – trapped in a dystopian wasteland and under the control of a totalitarian government, she’s the very unlucky loser of a Reaping (essentially a death lottery) and has to travel to an arena to fight twenty-three other teens to the death. She fights valiantly, always thinking about what is truly right and gambling her life in the hope of overthrowing the infamous President Snow.
6. Andy Sachs – The Devil Wears Prada
We all want, at some point in our lives, to strut smugly out of a job with the upper hand on a hellish boss. Andy overcomes demanding Miranda (though admittedly it takes her a while) and shows us that it is possible to escape from a bad environment, even if it is also a career. It’s a pretty bold move for a young wannabe journalist, but she looks awesome doing it and perhaps even teaches her boss a lesson.
7. Emilie – War Horse
Emilie is the granddaughter of the farmer who owns the land Joey and Topthorn work on after German soldiers have captured them. She tragically dies after falling ill with pneumonia (spoiler alert!) but serves as a reminder of the consequences of war and the unfairness it brings.
8. Hana, The English Patient
Hana, the protagonist in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, is a much different kind of inspirational; she spends years living in a half-destroyed house fending for herself, her patient and eventually the other men who come across them and decide to stick around. She’s exceptionally kind, compassionate and selfless, and provides a stark contrast to the horrific violence of the war-torn country she finds herself stuck in.
9. Margaret Beaufort – The Red Queen
The Red Queen is the second book in the series by Philippa Gregory, and tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, who was the mother of Henry VII. She is continually belittled, ignored and ridiculed by her mother, her cousin King Henry VI, and other figures of power who all dismiss her as a nuisance for wanting her son to become the next King. She’s a wonderful insight into the life of a powerful woman in Tudor history, and an inspiration for women suffering severe repression.
10. Scout Finch – To Kill A Mockingbird
Scout (or Jean Louise), the quaint protagonist of Harper Lee’s timeless novel To Kill A Mockingbird, is so memorable because of her lack of awareness into the sinister events surrounding her, and also her curiousness for discovering the secret of Boo Radley. She’s a strong-willed character who hasn’t yet grown out of her childish adventurousness, which makes her a brilliant voice to read since she is still oblivious to the corruption of the world around her.