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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty, intelligent, thrilling literary autobiography
Debut author Samantha Ellis tells the story of her coming of age and the construction of selfhood through the books she has read. The result is a marvellously fresh, original and gripping book, funny and intelligent, charming and self-deprecating and, ultimately, moving. It is a kind of feminist manifesto seen through the lenses of a girl's reading material. The self is a...
Published 7 months ago by Chiara Ridolfi

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading too much
Did I actually buy this book - I cannot imagine why I would have done so ! Surely, there is no such thing as "reading too much" ?
Published 3 months ago by Mervyn Arbuthnot


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty, intelligent, thrilling literary autobiography, 3 Jan 2014
This review is from: How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much (Hardcover)
Debut author Samantha Ellis tells the story of her coming of age and the construction of selfhood through the books she has read. The result is a marvellously fresh, original and gripping book, funny and intelligent, charming and self-deprecating and, ultimately, moving. It is a kind of feminist manifesto seen through the lenses of a girl's reading material. The self is a constantly shifting, changing, dynamic thing and Ellis is perfectly attuned to this, so her interpretations of her favourite books and their heroines change over time too. And the gallery of books featuring these female protagonists is wide and all-embracing -- Wuthering Heights sits beside Lace, Gone With The Wind with The Bell Jar. The thread that binds everything is Ellis's own life, as a girl growing up in the UK as part of the Iraqi Jewish community. This book is that very rare thing -- a wonderfully entertaining read that is also scintillatingly intelligent. It will also make you revisit the classics that mark your own reading life.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting book, 10 Jan 2014
By 
A. Craig "Amanda Craig" (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much (Hardcover)
This is such a brilliant idea - a young woman's autobiography via heroines of literary and popular fiction - that I almost hoped it would be bad. It isn't. It's beautifully written, very funny and full of the kind of insight you only get from honesty and intelligence. Ellis's account of growing up in England as part of an Iraqi-Jewish family add another dimension to a book thousands of women readers will love, as she learns from obvious heroines like Elizabeth Bennett to less obvious ones like The Dolls (as in Valley of). I'd like to give this to all my women friends - and my daughter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Influential reading!, 28 Mar 2014
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much (Hardcover)
Playwright and journalist Samantha Ellis presents us with an appealing exploration of her literary (and some not quite so literary) heroines. As the daughter of Iraqi-Jewish immigrants with traditional values, her shoulders are heaped with certain expectations from an early age but there's just one that really counts - and it's a biggie: making the perfect match with a nice Iraqi-Jewish boy from amongst the approved "son pool" of their tight-knit émigré community. Although Samantha would like to respect her parents' wishes, she wants passionately to plough her own furrow and be the heroine of her own life. Perhaps the heroines from her favourite reading will show her the way...

I love Samantha Ellis's writing style: lucid, wry and very easy to warm to. But it was when I reached page 191 that I actually fell in love with her! As part of this exercise, she revisits all the books she loved in her youth and finds that her feelings towards them have evolved. Indeed, when it comes to her favourite, Wuthering Heights, her feelings towards it have radically changed. With older, wiser eyes, she sums it up thus: "It's savage stuff, but it's also just so...can I say it?...melodramatic." I completely agree. I also agreed with her mature take on Little Women; one forgets (or has blanked out) just how sanctimonious Louisa May Alcott's golden classic truly is.

But it's not all classics; Samantha Ellis writes about other books that have influenced her too such as Valley of the Dolls and Shirley Conran's Lace. And with each heroine she describes, she weaves the relevant stage of her own story into the sub-text. Personally, I would have welcomed hearing more of Samantha's own story. It sounds as though it would be so interesting and inspirational in its own right. Perhaps one day she'll tell it and provide a new heroine to influence a whole new generation of young women...
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a joy, 13 Jan 2014
This review is from: How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much (Hardcover)
This book was such a delight to read. I ate it up in a day. Samantha Ellis does a beautiful job of reacquainting the reader with old friends and also offering up a massive and varied reading list of as yet unknown wonders. One of my favourite elements of the book was the sheer enthusiasm Ms Ellis writes with. Only a true fan of reading could talk with the same amount of glee and joyful analysis about The Brontes' and also Jilly Cooper. There was not one note of literary snobbery! Her personal story is really deftly interwoven with heroines from different times of her life. It is very funny with a wealth of interesting and beautiful details. Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A totally entertaining and insightful book that will make the reader want to dash to the shelf of much loved books and read them, 28 April 2014
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much (Hardcover)
Samantha Ellis grew up in London, she's the daughter of Iraqi-Jewish refugees and for her, the 80s and 90s consisted of listening to her parents wistful memories of their homeland, being made aware that she would have to find a husband who was acceptable ..... and reading books. Ellis had many literary heroines; from Anne of Green Gables to Sylvia Plath, through to Cathy Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights.

These heroines remained with her into adulthood, each one of them having a special meaning and evoking memories of the time in her life when she read about them. When she and her best friend visit Haworth, the birthplace of the Bronte sisters, they find themselves arguing about who was the best heroine; Jane Eyre or Cathy? Feeling disheartened by the fact that she had spent her life trying to be like Cathy, Samantha Ellis went back to her heroines. She read their stories again, with older, more experienced eyes and How To Be A Heroine is the result of her re-reading.

This is a witty, warm and very reflective read. Most of us will have some childhood literary heroines, those characters who have accompanied through life and never changed. Going back and revisiting those heroines was a brave thing to do, nobody wants to find that they were wrong, and our icons are actually just as flawed, if not more, than we are ourselves.

Samantha Ellis tells her own story throughout this book, and how her reading influenced some of her decisions and some of her dreams. Her family are interesting, her own life is quite eventful and her warm and wry style of writing holds the attention throughout.

It's interesting to read about how Ellis' attitudes towards her heroines changed over time and how they influenced her at the time of reading. I love the way that she gets so annoyed with authors at times, not holding back from criticising Louisa May Alcott, Dickens and even Shakespeare at times. Berating Shakespeare for killing Juliet and getting so angry about Jo's fate in Little Women.

A totally entertaining and insightful book that will make the reader want to dash to the shelf of much loved books and read them all over again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much fun to read, highly recommend, 23 Jan 2014
This review is from: How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much (Hardcover)
This book is such a great idea. It grabs you from the opening chapter and you just have to keep reading; I read it in a couple of days which is something I haven't done for years.

This book brought back many memories and I find it interesting how I now think about some of the characters in a different way from when I first met them years ago. I want to go back and reread many of these books and try some I haven't looked at before. I love the author's style of writing. She cleverly interweaves her own life story into the discussions of each heroine. She is very honest and open and I enjoyed the humour running through.

I have never written a review before or recommended a book, but reading this has prompted me to do both as I enjoyed it so much. Really looking forward to the next book from this author!
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5.0 out of 5 stars This was a really enjoyable read, not just for ..., 9 July 2014
This review is from: How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much (Hardcover)
This was a really enjoyable read, not just for the literary nostalgia but also the story of her own struggles growing up in the Iraqi-Jewish community. Ellis has such a strong, witty, engaging voice as a writer, and has made me want to reread a lot of my own favourites.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Why why why, 21 Jun 2014
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This book would have been more interesting if written by one of my friends really although the chapter about Little Women did make it worth a read. Other chapters, however, descended into describing the plots of films or books in a 'Then this happened, then this happened' style which was very tedious whether you knew the film/book or not. I also doubted the authenticity of the premiss - would anyone honestly follow a life course based purely on heroines from literature? Not enlightening or groundbreaking but I am sure pleasurable to write.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing look back at the classics, 16 Jun 2014
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I enjoyed Ms Ellis's contemporary look at the classics. The book reminded me of my own past reading and encouraged me to revisit some. On occasions the association between the author's life experiences and those of her literary heroines appeared to be somewhat forced, but I on the whole I enjoyed reading about her life, appreciated her conversational style, and look forward to future books by this author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic read, 12 Jun 2014
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An absolute page turner, warm, witty, inspiring and fun - a must-read. A great way to revisit the heroines you know and discover new ones.
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How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much
How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much by Samantha Ellis (Hardcover - 2 Jan 2014)
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