Written by Rebecca Humphries

In The News

Women of Character

Though as an adult she no longer has to dress up for World Book Day, Rebecca Humphries knows who she’s going as if she ever gets the opportunity.

Hermione Granger

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger.

Today, March 5, is World Book Day, which made yesterday, March 4, World ‘Shit my kid needs an outfit for World Book Day’ Day.

You can spot those kids a mile off in their hastily ripped and muddied shirts and trousers, their parents insisting that they’re Robinson Crusoe or Oliver Twist, all vastly inferior to the children of PTA-power-parents who come as perfect miniature replicas of Mad Hatters, Captain Hooks and White Witches.

I had a total lack of respect for school letters as a child, so the fancy dress memo was promptly shoved into the recesses of my bag and its existence denied until the eve of Book Day when I informed my mum I would be requiring a costume in approximately eight hours’ time.

My mother – a woman with considerable seamstress skill and a flair for fancy dress – was as shamefaced as I was when I turned up at the school gates as Just William, i.e. in full uniform but covered in mud with a painted on black eye and a sign around my neck saying ‘Just William’ (in case the situation was misread and social services were called).

So to exorcise that painful memory I’ve put together a fantasy list of heroines that -should opportunity arise- I would happily dress up as to honour World Book Day.

Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara.

Scarlett O’Hara – Gone With the Wind.

Seriously, if Katie Scarlett were alive today she would out-Beyoncé Beyoncé. In under 1,500 pages this merry widow of the war-torn South, creator of curtain couture and patron saint of proactivity delivers a baby, salvages her family home, buries two husbands, has three children, buries both parents, runs a successful business in times of austerity and still has time to receive a damn good ravishing from the sexiest cad in literature. Ladies, you can keep your Christian Grey, I’ve been dreaming of Rhett Butler whisking me up a staircase since I was 13.

Nancy – Oliver Twist

Everyone’s favourite jolly prostitute, Nancy appeals to our maternal side. She really does go to extraordinary lengths to look after Oliver, especially when you consider the fact that he’s a slightly insipid child she’s barely met. Let’s face it though; great as the book is it ain’t the same without the tunes. Altogether now: “Aaaazzzz long aaazzzz ‘eeee neeeedsss meeee…”

Hermione Granger – The Harry Potter series.

No I’m not talking about the Chanel-clad, red-lipped, tiny-elf-child Emma Watson. I’m talking about the real Hermione with her buck-teeth and frizzy hair: the irritating holier-than-thou swot of the books  who we can all actually relate to.

lucy_briers_mary_bennet

Lucy Briers as Mary Bennett in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Mary Bennett – Pride and Prejudice.

I see it like this: not all of us have been a Jane. Not all of us have been an Elizabeth. But at some point in our lives we have all been a Mary; quietly convinced of our own capabilities but ostracised from the family and always overshadowed by a brasher, louder relative of the loathsome Lydia ilk. (NB If you can’t picture that relative, that relative is probably you.)

Chiyo/Sayuri – Memoirs of a Geisha.

I’ve no idea where this deep-rooted feeling of solidarity for geishas comes from. Probably from my conviction that I was one in a former life. The poise, the coquettishness: it all just screams Rebecca. I mean, when I left Wetherspoons at midnight last weekend I didn’t fall over in my heels once. Not once. I devoured this book as a teen a number of times. What’s not to love? The clothes, the make up, the men… it’s like a Japanese version of Sex and the City. Fabulous.

Lyra

Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra Belacqua.

Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials.

Brave, courageous and loyal warrior Lyra has the makings of a true Amazonian warrior. Friend of gypsies, polar bears and even her own death, author Philip Pullman writes her with such wisdom and bravery that the rug is pulled out from under our feet whenever we’re reminded that she’s barely 12. It should be noted that The Amber Spyglass holds the record for ‘longest I have blubbed after a book has ended’ (25 minutes non stop).

Aibileen Clark – The Help.

Aibileen represents the silent heroine; the woman who shares nothing with the outside world but who the reader knows to be much more than she appears and who carries her sadness deep in her bones. Despite her weariness, her circumstances and her treatment she is that most wonderful of things: a trier. Her relentless attempts to instil kindness and acceptance into rotund toddler Mae Mobley, despite the probability that she will end up as prejudiced as her indifferent mother, makes her the real heart of the novel.

Briony Tallis – Atonement.

As a child Briony is a pathological liar, a snobby little madam and kind of a pervert. We’ve all been there. As an adult, Briony is less of a snob, less of a perv and about 100% kinder, but no less of a massive liar. Nobody’s perfect (warning: if you’re prone to anger do not read this book. I threw it across the room and the hole in the drywall is still there to prove it).

little women

Jo March, played by Winona Ryder.

Jo March – Little Women

Literature is strewn with girls who never quite felt they were like everyone else but few were as loud, flagrant and cool as Jo March. Jo was a nonconformist; Jo was sassy. Jo got the Taylor Swift bob haircut 100 years before Taylor Swift. I felt very akin to Jo when I first read Little Women: she wrote plays as a child (like I did), forced members of her family into acting them out against their will (like I did) and threw hissy fits while wailing at their unfairness of life (like I…do).

And talk about forgiving: if my sister burned my life’s work and married my boyfriend I can’t imagine I’d be happy.

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Written by Rebecca Humphries

Rebecca is an actress and writer from Norwich. She likes her portions big and her dogs small. @Beckshumps