Shock­ing truths!

A less-than-sala­cious look at the Na­tional En­quirer’s found­ing fam­ily.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - By Erin Blake­more Harper. 200 pp. $19.99

THE HERO­INE’S BOOKSHELF Life Lessons From Jane Austen to Laura In­galls Wilder

What to do when you’re stuck in bed with a cold, fac­ing a cri­sis of faith or deal­ing with a bad breakup? Erin Blake­more of­fers a few un­ortho­dox pre­scrip­tions: Lucy Maud Mont­gomery’s “Anne of Green Gables,” Zora

Neale Hurston’s “ Their Eyes Were Watch­ing God” and Char­lotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre.”

While ac­knowl­edg­ing that read­ing the clas­sics can be “ the ter­rain of mil­que­toasts and mopey spin­sters,” Blake­more finds com­fort and in­spi­ra­tion in re­vis­it­ing the tales of lit­er­a­ture’s lead­ing ladies and ex­plor­ing the lives of the women who spun them. In “ The Hero­ine’s Bookshelf,” Blake­more rereads 12 of her fa­vorite books, writ­ten in sim­pler times but cer­tainly not freer ones.

In­deed, from Alice Walker’s bat­tles against prej­u­dice and par­tial blind­ness in the Amer­i­can South to Co­lette’s strug­gle to get her own name — rather than her hus­band’s — at­tached to her work in fin de siè­cle Paris, these writ­ers’ bi­ogra­phies cer­tainly in­formed their writ­ing and vice versa. Fi­nally, Blake­more adds an­other hero­ine to her cast of char­ac­ters: her­self. She re­flects on times when she iden­ti­fied with these fic­tional friends, and she aligns their sto­ries with con­tem­po­rary women’s strug­gles.

Blake­more makes a charm­ing case for reread­ing, but will mod­ern read­ers spend time with her re­flec­tions on the clas­sics and then go back to the orig­i­nals? The mil­que­toasts and the mopey spin­sters, per­haps. Ev­ery­one else might be more tempted to get to know some new hero­ines in fic­tion writ­ten for these times.

bonosl@wash­post.com

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