Win! Well-Read Women by Samantha Hahn

11th Sep 2013

Well-Read Women Samantha Hahn
You know how you've always wanted a book of beautiful watercolour portraits of the best women characters in literature? Then this is your lucky day...

Between exhibiting all over the world and garnering a stellar reputation for her ethereal paintings and fashion illustrations, NY-based artist Samantha Hahn has produced a collection celebrating fiction’s most beloved heroines.

Well-Read Women, published last week by Chronicle Books, features fifty watercolour portraits of literature’s iconic leading ladies, each accompanied by a hand-lettered quotation.

Classic characters like Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet feature alongside the likes of Holly Golightly, Daisy Buchanan and many more. Here are a few of our favourites…

Clarissa Dalloway

Clarissa Dalloway, the eponymous heroine of Virginia Woolf‘s Mrs. Dalloway

Esther Greenwood

Esther Greenwood from Sylvia Plath‘s novel The Bell Jar

Scarlett O'Hara

Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell‘s classic, Gone with the Wind

Dorothea Brooke

Dorothea Brooke from George Eliot‘s Middlemarch

Edna Pontellier

Edna Pontellier from The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Nancy Drew

And everyone’s favourite girl detective, Nancy Drew

Like the look of Well-Read Women by Samantha Hahn? We’ve got three copies to give away, and all you need to be in with a chance to win is comment on this post telling us your favourite fictional heroine by midnight on Wednesday 18th September 2013.

We’ll pick three lucky winners at random soon afterwards and be in touch by email then. Good luck!


  • Katy Lassetter says:

    What a stunning looking book! My favourite fictional heroine is Vianne Rocher from Joanne Harris’ Chocolat – she’s brave, talented and magical and reminds me of my mum.

  • Rebecca says:

    Scout Finch! Her narrative voice reflecting over the events of her past is perfect!

  • Beulah Devaney says:

    Love the Nancy Drew one! And my favourite fictional heroine is probably Miss Marple so maybe that’s a second series right there?

  • Rachel says:

    Picking just one is so hard, and this will probably look like a really uninspired answer because she’s featured in this post – but Dorothea Brooke is one of my favourite female heroines. She reminds me to never be afraid to be “enamoured of intensity and greatness.”

  • Steffi says:

    Hermione Granger!

  • Natasha Borton says:

    Beautiful watercolours! Definitely. Book lovers Christmas gift. My favourite lady is a tough one but I love Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief, she goes through so much but relies on books like so many of us do.

  • Lorraine Winson says:

    Jane in LM Montgomerys “Jane of Lantern Hill”. I read this book when I was very young and so wanted to be Jane in that fantastic place……..even if it meant that my parents had to split up!

  • SarahC. says:

    I’ve adored Cassandra Mortmain for 16 years, since I first read ICTC, and my love shows no sign of abating.

  • Elaine Wilson says:

    It would have to be Mick Kelly from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I still have my old, battered copy from ‘O’ Level, held together by sticky tape and love.

  • Jenny says:

    Martha Quest from Doris Lessing’s ‘Children of Violence’ series! Not because she’s a particularly great example of a human being, but as a character she is fascinating. Her increasing-yet-changeable political awareness and sense of place in the world throughout the series is wonderfully done.

    Well. I haven’t read the last book in the series (I’ve been saving it – I don’t want to have no more to read!), but certainly the other books are fantastic.

  • Audrey says:

    WOW; this book looks absolutely amazing and beautiful!

    My fav fictional heroine is changing according to my mood… Today it would be Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium Saga :)

  • Kaley @ Books Etc. says:

    I know my answer will be a popular one but I love Elizabeth Bennet from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Not only is she a great heroine but she’s one who reads, too.

  • Emma Gibbons says:

    My favorite would have to be Lyra Silvertongue from His Dark Materials. Such an important strong young female. That’s a gorgeous book, by the way!

  • Nina says:

    My favorite fictional heroine, Marian Halcombe in The Woman in White.

  • Rachelle says:

    My favourite fictional heroine will always be Nancy Drew. She introduced me to feminism & crime fiction at the same time, which are two things all 11 year old girls need in their lives.

  • Stephanie Taylor says:

    Lovely book! My heroine (of the moment, because it changes all the time) would have to be Annie Fang in the The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, because she doesn’t have all the answers but she does a pretty good job of navigating through her life considering her unconventional upbringing!

  • may says:

    @Nancy I loved Marian from The Woman in White too.

    I think my favourite fictional heroine is also Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice.

    @Kaley it’s also really great that she reads

    I like that she has flaws, but I really like how strong she is. My favourite part of that book (and any adaptation) has always been her debate with Lady Catherine De Bourgh at the end of the book. That scene sums up perfectly the reasons why Elizabeth is my favourite.

  • Jessica Barone says:

    I love this idea and the book looks lovely. Nancy was mine growing up, many nights up late reading about her adventures.

  • Irina says:

    A lovely idea and a most desired book! The first fictitious character I fell in love with and truly admire is Lizzy (Elizabeth Bennet), with her witty remarks and independent way of being.

  • Liselore says:

    My favourite (anti)heroine is Cass Neary from Elizabeth Hand’s Generation loss and Available dark. Her ‘Too tough to die’ tattoo sums her up perfectly.

  • Ruxandra says:

    Lovely idea for a book! My favourite heroine must be Holly Golithly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I have to admit I might be influenced by Audrey Hepburn’s interpretation from the movie, but nonetheless, the character has a lovely charm, simplicity, love for life and freedom. Although she’s in a continuous struggle, her perspective of life is hopeful and refreshing.

  • Iris says:

    Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! Jane Austen is my favorite author of all time and Elizabeth my favorite heroine! She’s strong, witty and her personality is just *sigh!* there’s no words for what I’m trying to say haha. Those watercolor portraits are stunning! *fingers crossed*

  • Shay says:

    I’m dying to own this book! My favorite protagonist has to be Elizabeth Bennet. She’s so witty!

  • Rebecca M says:

    Sally in Crossing to Safety – so strong, so humble.

  • Nija says:

    Rosa Clay nee Saks. Hands down. Smart. Tough. Loving. And uncompromising.

  • Joleen Zubek says:

    These illustrations are beautiful and capture the essence of each character, I am in love with this book! My favorite heroine I think would be Elizabeth Bennet, she is strong, independent, thoughtful, and well read, all things I admire and aim to be.

  • Udita Banerjee says:

    Jo (Josephine) March, from Little Women

  • Sophie says:

    My favourite heroine isn’t really fictional- I’d have to go with Marjane Satrapi, from the graphic memoir ‘Persepolis.’ She taught me what it means to be courageous despite one’s flaws and that it’s always right to be passionate and brave. She also introduced me to the history of Iran and the Middle East. Every woman in that memoir is an incredible example of intelligence and fortitude.

  • Saba says:

    Eustacia Vye from The Return of the Native. Why? “Eustacia Vye was the raw material of a divinity. On Olympus she would have done well with a little preparation. She had the passions and instincts which make a model goddess, that is, those which make not quite a model woman…”

  • Kathleen Chant says:

    My favorite fictional heroine is Jo March from Little Women whom I first met as a young girl more than 50 years ago.

  • Nicola says:

    Why, Miss Jean Brodie, of course.. (she’s flawed, but I love her)

  • Ellie Baggley says:

    What an amazing book. It’s so hard to pick just one but I have a very soft spot for Alabama Beggs from Save Me The Waltz. She is just so enthusiastic!

  • Caroline Leach (@piefaceline) says:

    They are such gorgeous watercolours! I love the vibrancy of the colours.
    My fictional heroine is Jane Eyre – I really identify with her longing to be free, to be an independent person, with her own independent will.

  • Friend gray says:

    I have been eyeing this book for months!

  • Friend gray says:

    Oh and my favorite heroine is Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice.

  • june seghni says:

    I love Miss Melly (Melanie Wilkes) from Gone With The Wind for her kindness, her selflessness, and her ability to see some good in Scarlett O’hara where anyone else would have killed her!

  • LH Johnson says:

    Ruth from KM Peyton’s books. Complex, funny and a bit brilliant when things come down to it. And that book looks beautiful!

  • CassDM says:

    Matilda! Book lover, kind, compasionate, and has magical powers!!

  • Magda says:

    Nora Helmer from a Doll’s House comes to mind… Quite a complex character presented in less than 100 pages, flawed, passionate, brave…

  • Claire says:

    My favourite fictional heroine is Hermione Granger. Yes, she’s an obvious choice, but Hermione has been with me since childhood, since I developed my passion for reading – a passion that Hermione shares. Whenever there’s trouble, or something goes amiss, Hermione heads to the library. She learns about the problem and helps her friends to confront it head on. Without Hermione’s cleverness or learning, Harry would have struggled a lot more with his adventures.

    Reading in the playground wasn’t considered the coolest way to spend a break from the classroom, but it was what I enjoyed – what I loved – and, thanks to Hermione’s example, it never occurred to my younger self to doubt that reading was a great way to spend my time.

    Hermione is also an activist from a young age. When she learns about inequalities in the Wizarding world, in particular the way house-elves are treated by witches and wizards, Hermione is appalled. She describes the servitude of house-elves as “slave labour” and stages a hunger strike protest, in spite of the ridicule she receives from her friends. Instead of accepting that this is the way things have been for generations and forgetting about it, Hermione does her best to improve the situation. She treats house-elves with respect, promotes their freedom, and encourages her peers to do the same. What impressed me most was that Hermione didn’t stop and question how much one young girl could achieve – she devoted herself entirely to that cause, even going on to a career in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Hermione Granger does nothing halfway.

    And then there’s the fact that Hermione is “the brightest witch of her age”. In her first year she got 112% in her Charms examination – only the beginning of her brilliance academically and otherwise. In fiction, especially when an element of fantasy is involved, it is very often the male characters who are characterised as being highly logical or geeky. Hermione turns that trope on its head. Throughout the books, she is rightly proud of her intellect and does not waste a single moment worrying about whether or not she is stereotypically feminine. Hermione’s confidence and self-respect made her a great role model for a generation of girls.

    Another way in which Hermione’s character inspires is that she doesn’t shy away from adventure. Rowling never engineered it so that Hermione was kept away from danger – she was in the thick of it with Harry and Ron all along, an active participant. In fact, of the three of them, Hermione is the best at casting spells. There is a moment in Deathly Hallows when Hermione scoffs that she is expected to cook because she’s a girl. The response is that it’s actually because she is better at magic than either of the others. While I didn’t find that entirely satisfying, it was refreshing to have a heroine that acknowledged gender stereotyping as a form of sexism.

    Lastly (but by no means least) Hermione sticks by her friends. At eleven years of age, she is prepared to go against an array of enchantments created by highly qualified wizards, and potentially encounter Lord Voldemort, in order to stand by Harry – to do what she believes is right. When Harry receives the Firebolt from an anonymous sender, Hermione risks losing her friends out of concern for Harry’s safety and tells an adult. Not many thirteen year old kids would have had the guts. In the Goblet of Fire – in spite of the gossip circulating about her relationship with Harry – Hermione provides endless support for him throughout the Triwizard tournament. When she is only seventeen, Hermione leaves her parents, her school, and everything that she holds dear in order to fight alongside Harry. Even though her friendship with Harry makes her more of a target, Hermione is always there for him.

    Hermione Granger stands by her convictions, is loyal to her friends, and true to herself. She is a brilliant young woman, and an extraordinarily gifted witch. Her cleverness, drive, and compassion make her great. Therefore Hermione is my favourite fictional heroine and always will be.

  • Lizzi Denton says:

    Stunning book. mine has got to be Clarissa Dalloway! “For there she was.”

  • Ruby M says:

    This book looks so beautiful! My favourite heroines are all from children’s books – Dahl’s Matilda, Blyton’s George and Violet the inventor from ‘A Series Of Unfortunate Events’.

  • Phoebe says:

    My favourite literary heroine is definitely Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar

  • Violet Smart says:

    Mariam from ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’!

  • Jasmine says:

    Pilar, from Hemmingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’.

  • Rachel says:

    This is a tough one! I have so many! I guess my favourite would have to be…Catherine from ‘Wuthering Heights’. As well as her daughter, Cathy. They were incredible women.

  • Vili Skarlopoulou says:

    ”Elizabeth Bennet” for here too! I couldn’t resist!

  • Sophie Clark says:

    Mick Kelly from Carson McCullers’ ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’. She is such a unique, earnest, and funny character and her storyline in this novel breaks my heart.