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"Comparing lead female characters in books v1"

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

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All three of these selections star a female lead who is imperfect or damaged or doubting herself. All of them take the character to dark and dismal places, granting opportunities for triumphant return or a huge change in direction. You don’t have to approve of or agree with their decisions and actions, but the ride along the way is fascinating.

The Midnight Library

Matt Haig, 2020


This work is a fictional account of ‘what if’ for one particular person. She starts off with some very low circumstances, hits bottom, and decides she’s ready to give up on life. Yet the most miraculous (or insane) thing happens – she’s interrupted mid death with an apparition of her old librarian, someone who once changed her life. Can she do it again or is that even up to the ghost/spirit/mentor? A call back to Clarence visiting George Bailey in It’s a Beautiful Life, this is a fine examination of motivations, ethics, and why we make decisions the way we do.

Personal extra:

I hope this is made into a movie with a glorious budget for the effects. It also works well as an audiobook.

The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins, 2015


Rachel has issues. Alcoholism, lack of esteem, hateful husband, job loss… but more concerning is her memory of late. Is she working up a fantasy inside her head or is there really a perfect couple leading the perfect life in her previous home which she passes daily on the train where she can anonymously watch the goings on of the interlopers without their notice? What happens when she notices something she wasn’t meant to see? How involved with the official investigation can she unofficially get? Are her confused perceptions actually blackouts from the booze or is someone messing with her head?

Personal extra:

Both the book and the film (2017) are well worth the effort of reading/viewing, but the book describes the main character differently from what we perceive of Emily Blunt’s translation. I found the book more fulfilling than the movie despite my great admiration for Blunt’s work and style if only because I found Rachel a dubious narrator and could find plenty of reason to doubt her word/memory along the shifting action. She doesn’t intend to be this irresponsible or false – she’s extremely flawed is all.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Audrey Niffenegger, 2004


Henry has a problem – sadly, it is genetic and fairly consuming as far as his career, relationships, and life in general are concerned. He jumps points in time, back and forth in his own life, with no control. Yet having met a young girl when he was not so young himself, she knows she is destined to help and support him. She also falls in love with him and they marry despite the strange challenges to an average life they face. With no cure in sight, what can the couple do to iron out their marriage before he disappears for a final time?

Personal extra:

The movie 2009 with Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams is MOST EXCELLENTLY translated to the screen, no complaints from me – highly recommended.

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