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Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines

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A treasure of a gift for the well-read woman, this collection brings together 50 stirring portraits, in watercolour and in word, of literature's most well-read female characters. Anna Karenina, Clarissa Dalloway, Daisy Buchanan...each seems to live on the page through celebrated artist Samantha Hahn's evocative portraits and hand-lettered quotations, with the pairing of ar A treasure of a gift for the well-read woman, this collection brings together 50 stirring portraits, in watercolour and in word, of literature's most well-read female characters. Anna Karenina, Clarissa Dalloway, Daisy Buchanan...each seems to live on the page through celebrated artist Samantha Hahn's evocative portraits and hand-lettered quotations, with the pairing of art and text capturing all the spirit of the character as she was originally written. The book itself evokes vintage grace re-imagined for contemporary taste, with a cloth spine silk-screened in a graphic pattern, debossed cover, and pages that turn with the tactile satisfaction of watercolour paper. In the hand and in the reading, here is a new classic for the book lover's library.


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A treasure of a gift for the well-read woman, this collection brings together 50 stirring portraits, in watercolour and in word, of literature's most well-read female characters. Anna Karenina, Clarissa Dalloway, Daisy Buchanan...each seems to live on the page through celebrated artist Samantha Hahn's evocative portraits and hand-lettered quotations, with the pairing of ar A treasure of a gift for the well-read woman, this collection brings together 50 stirring portraits, in watercolour and in word, of literature's most well-read female characters. Anna Karenina, Clarissa Dalloway, Daisy Buchanan...each seems to live on the page through celebrated artist Samantha Hahn's evocative portraits and hand-lettered quotations, with the pairing of art and text capturing all the spirit of the character as she was originally written. The book itself evokes vintage grace re-imagined for contemporary taste, with a cloth spine silk-screened in a graphic pattern, debossed cover, and pages that turn with the tactile satisfaction of watercolour paper. In the hand and in the reading, here is a new classic for the book lover's library.

30 review for Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joey Woolfardis

    One of my favourite parts of reading is meeting new characters and forming an opinion about them. I find I don't always love the characters others do, but neither do I hate the ones others do, either. However, I've never really felt myself looking up to characters in a way I've read some people do, and I feel like I've missed out slightly. There have been certain characters-of both genders-that I have always felt empathy for and perhaps identified with to a certain degree, but at no point have I One of my favourite parts of reading is meeting new characters and forming an opinion about them. I find I don't always love the characters others do, but neither do I hate the ones others do, either. However, I've never really felt myself looking up to characters in a way I've read some people do, and I feel like I've missed out slightly. There have been certain characters-of both genders-that I have always felt empathy for and perhaps identified with to a certain degree, but at no point have I become so enveloped within a character's aura that I have felt anything other than a slight fondness for them. Well-Read Women brings together some of my other favourite things together, namely watercolour and quotes. The great thing about this book is that it doesn't contain that one type of woman that these days we are pressurised to become because people don't understand what Feminism actually is. There are heroines, damsels in distress, women who simply exist for themselves or for others, or all of those things and more. It is entirely possible to look up to two women for entirely different reasons. The illustrations are just beautiful. Abstract in places, incomplete in others, but within each we gain a true sense of how these characters looked, but also what they thought, how they felt and why they existed within the narrative they did. The quotes are well chosen: often well-known and often not. It contains well-loved quotes from well-loved books, but also lesser known quotes from some characters you'd be forgiven for thinking were simply background characters. There is something here for every single reader and definitely not just for women, either. Yes, it's a coffee table book and no, it won't tax you incredibly, but it will transport you to over thirty different worlds within about five minutes, and there's not a lot of books that can claim that. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Shop | Etsy

  2. 5 out of 5

    Book

    My daughter got this for my birthday. It’s the type of book that would make an ideal gift. There are gorgeous watercolor illustrations and quotes from fictional women. My daughter got this for my birthday. It’s the type of book that would make an ideal gift. There are gorgeous watercolor illustrations and quotes from fictional women.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    A stunning collection of watercolour paintings, depicting famous literary ladies and their quotes. I wasn't familiar with each and every one, but I know I will seek out those new to me, and linger over these pages again and again. A stunning collection of watercolour paintings, depicting famous literary ladies and their quotes. I wasn't familiar with each and every one, but I know I will seek out those new to me, and linger over these pages again and again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is the second time I have read this book and it is just as captivating as the first time I read it. The pictures are breathtaking and the quotes just emphasise the strength of these female characters and why they have earned their legendary status. It's a book that allows you to appreciate wonderful literary figures and stunning artwork. This is the second time I have read this book and it is just as captivating as the first time I read it. The pictures are breathtaking and the quotes just emphasise the strength of these female characters and why they have earned their legendary status. It's a book that allows you to appreciate wonderful literary figures and stunning artwork.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Faye

    Read: April 2020 I really wanted this to be a five star book - the watercolour paintings are beautiful and the quotes that accompany them are fitting and thoughtful. I love the concept of a book of paintings that celebrates famous female literary characters. The only issue for me was a fairly big one - Hahn stated in the introduction that "each character is now as familiar to me as an old friend," - implying a good knowledge of her subjects - yet she specifically wrote that Becky Sharp (the unfor Read: April 2020 I really wanted this to be a five star book - the watercolour paintings are beautiful and the quotes that accompany them are fitting and thoughtful. I love the concept of a book of paintings that celebrates famous female literary characters. The only issue for me was a fairly big one - Hahn stated in the introduction that "each character is now as familiar to me as an old friend," - implying a good knowledge of her subjects - yet she specifically wrote that Becky Sharp (the unforgettable Vanity Fair antagonist) was an Edwardian woman. Vanity Fair was written in 1847 and set during the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815 so Becky is in no way Edwardian. A mistake that big calls into question how much research or reading Hahn actually did when it came to these paintings. I still really enjoyed this book - which is why it has a four star rating from me - but I couldn't give five stars when there's such an obvious mistake.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    This was cute, but a little disappointing. I like the art style and I agree with some depictions of popular heroines like Emma or Daisy. But I just think it's too pretty and, especially in the case of Pecola and Lady Kiritsubo, way too white. This was cute, but a little disappointing. I like the art style and I agree with some depictions of popular heroines like Emma or Daisy. But I just think it's too pretty and, especially in the case of Pecola and Lady Kiritsubo, way too white.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    I've been wanting this book for a long time because the cover is so beautiful and I thought I'd really enjoy looking at the beautiful illustrations, but once I sat down to read every page, I realized she decided to turn every literary figure into some type of Barbie doll--even the children are made to look like beautiful models instead of children. I thought this book was going to be about celebrating great literary characters, but unfortunately, I think it sought to make "beautiful women" talk I've been wanting this book for a long time because the cover is so beautiful and I thought I'd really enjoy looking at the beautiful illustrations, but once I sat down to read every page, I realized she decided to turn every literary figure into some type of Barbie doll--even the children are made to look like beautiful models instead of children. I thought this book was going to be about celebrating great literary characters, but unfortunately, I think it sought to make "beautiful women" talk about love--I thought many of the quotes could have been chosen better. It doesn't even matter what you think a character would look like because Hahn will surely have tried to paint her as a Barbie doll. I also realized how badly this book lacks in diversity. There are two characters of "color" in here, and each is made to look as least ethnic as possible. I feel like Pecola had to wear a hat just so we wouldn't have to see her hair. I guess Hahn just wanted to paint beautiful blondes... I was excited to get this book and hoped to display it in my home, but honestly, now I'd just be embarrassed to display such a Eurocentric book that mostly turns women into stereotypes in love.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    It certainly didn't take me days, but this book took longer than I expected to get through. I relished in the intricate, delicate detail of each heroine. I read and reread the lines, trying to remember the passages from books I knew, while imagining the context of those I didn't. Samantha Hahn's impressions of each woman is worthy of study, and I was introduced to some books I had forsaken as "simply not for me." After having a brief encounter with the heroine of Crime and Punishment, for exampl It certainly didn't take me days, but this book took longer than I expected to get through. I relished in the intricate, delicate detail of each heroine. I read and reread the lines, trying to remember the passages from books I knew, while imagining the context of those I didn't. Samantha Hahn's impressions of each woman is worthy of study, and I was introduced to some books I had forsaken as "simply not for me." After having a brief encounter with the heroine of Crime and Punishment, for example, Les Miserables, or even Dracula, I concluded that I have assumed I know more about literature than I thought I did. Whether I read them is not as important as the fact that my world has just become a bit bigger, and that is entirely thanks to Hahn's curation of the Western canon.* Find this book whether you are an admirer of art, the female form, looking to expand your TBR, or are simply a reader of English prose. You can't go wrong. *I'm not mathematician, but 99% is WC.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily (Obsessed Reader)

    Absolutely stunning book. Well worth the money to have on your shelf as a collector's item. I borrowed this from the library, but I loved it so much that I will definitely get my own copy for my personal collection. Absolutely stunning book. Well worth the money to have on your shelf as a collector's item. I borrowed this from the library, but I loved it so much that I will definitely get my own copy for my personal collection.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nouruddine

    Yeah! I had this desire before to have a whole archive of fiction's heros and heroines I badly attached with. And here we are introduced to an album of the most touching and beautiful literature's heroines in wonderfully illustrated portraits and hand-written quotes. *** My favourite one: *** Yeah! I had this desire before to have a whole archive of fiction's heros and heroines I badly attached with. And here we are introduced to an album of the most touching and beautiful literature's heroines in wonderfully illustrated portraits and hand-written quotes. *** My favourite one: ***

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Reads & Rambles

    This is an absolutely stunning book, both in terms of content and just the way it's been put together. Hahn's watercolour art style is so enchanting, very soft and delicate. For the books and characters included that I have read so far, I felt the quotes chosen to accompany each picture were very apt. Would have been nice to see more women of colour included, but that's my only qualm, and there's always the possibility for a second instalment I guess. Will definitely be dipping in and out of thi This is an absolutely stunning book, both in terms of content and just the way it's been put together. Hahn's watercolour art style is so enchanting, very soft and delicate. For the books and characters included that I have read so far, I felt the quotes chosen to accompany each picture were very apt. Would have been nice to see more women of colour included, but that's my only qualm, and there's always the possibility for a second instalment I guess. Will definitely be dipping in and out of this again in future, such a lovely book to own!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ophelia

    What a marvelous piece of art! The portraits are so gorgeous and the quotes are so artsy and beautifully chosen. It makes me want to pick up every single story mentioned in this book. More people need to know of this book!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Juliette

    This coffee table book features stunning watercolors of literary heroines. My favorites are Alice, Hester Prynne, Nancy Drew, Ophelia, Cosette, Juliet and Antigone. I would love for Chronicle Books to release a wall calendar and note cards by this artist. Also, a portion of this book's proceeds are donated to Room to Read, a charity that supports literacy and gender equality. A beautiful book & meaningful cause! This coffee table book features stunning watercolors of literary heroines. My favorites are Alice, Hester Prynne, Nancy Drew, Ophelia, Cosette, Juliet and Antigone. I would love for Chronicle Books to release a wall calendar and note cards by this artist. Also, a portion of this book's proceeds are donated to Room to Read, a charity that supports literacy and gender equality. A beautiful book & meaningful cause!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Latie

    This would make a fantastic gift for those who have a hard time buying, especially for picky book worms! The book is comprised of vividly rendered photos in stunning water colour portraying various female characters of literature. Each stunning portrait is accompanied by a quote handwritten in water colour. the most stand out part of the book was the artistry- it's the main reason why I just had to own it. I felt some of the quotes chosen where either a little vague, or cliche- but the majority This would make a fantastic gift for those who have a hard time buying, especially for picky book worms! The book is comprised of vividly rendered photos in stunning water colour portraying various female characters of literature. Each stunning portrait is accompanied by a quote handwritten in water colour. the most stand out part of the book was the artistry- it's the main reason why I just had to own it. I felt some of the quotes chosen where either a little vague, or cliche- but the majority were beautiful, meaningful, or curious- enough to make you want to learn about the story behind the character. "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?" -Dorothea Brooke, Middlemarch by George Eliot (p.p. 89, Samantha Hahn) In other words, this book serves as a vivid gateway to new stories for the avid female (or male) reader to enjoy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Bunting

    I got this from the library because I wanted to look at it. I read it in 10 minutes and now I kinda want my own copy. Let me start off by saying: IT'S SO PRETTY. I love the selection. I love the watercolors. I love how the women looked like normal women. I love the quotes chosen. I made a mental note of about 10 classics I need to read because I love a fierce female character. It's a well made book. The cover feel substantial and the paper is high-quality and feel luxurious. Flip through this. Simp I got this from the library because I wanted to look at it. I read it in 10 minutes and now I kinda want my own copy. Let me start off by saying: IT'S SO PRETTY. I love the selection. I love the watercolors. I love how the women looked like normal women. I love the quotes chosen. I made a mental note of about 10 classics I need to read because I love a fierce female character. It's a well made book. The cover feel substantial and the paper is high-quality and feel luxurious. Flip through this. Simply amazing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Read for the challenge of: "Read a book about books." What a marvelous piece of art! The portraits are gorgeous and the quotes are beautifully written and chosen. It makes me want to read every single book in this book. I'm definitely checking more of this artists. Read for the challenge of: "Read a book about books." What a marvelous piece of art! The portraits are gorgeous and the quotes are beautifully written and chosen. It makes me want to read every single book in this book. I'm definitely checking more of this artists.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    5 STARS

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shanelle Sorensen

    I love the art and the quotes that were chosen. The list of characters is definitely quite different from what I would choose, but that's neither here nor there. At first I just kind of flipped through it very quickly and casually and wasn't all that impressed. It's definitely a coffee table book, which is not really my thing. But upon further thought, and a second flip through, I became intrigued with the way the characters were represented and amazed especially at the eyes, on the close-up por I love the art and the quotes that were chosen. The list of characters is definitely quite different from what I would choose, but that's neither here nor there. At first I just kind of flipped through it very quickly and casually and wasn't all that impressed. It's definitely a coffee table book, which is not really my thing. But upon further thought, and a second flip through, I became intrigued with the way the characters were represented and amazed especially at the eyes, on the close-up portraits. While I would have loved to see more from it, I have to take it for what it is. With that in mind, I think it's an awesome book for bookworm women to have on display and one I think I'll enjoy looking at from time to time.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Susan Rose

    This book is a collection of portraits of the authors favourite literary heroines accompanied by her favourite quote from each character. To start with the water colour illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and the characters depicted are from a wide variety of literature. The portraits made me re-evaluate how I’ve imagined the characters from the books I’ve already read and I know I’ll be returning to this book each time I read more of the novels involved. Although this book takes a very short t This book is a collection of portraits of the authors favourite literary heroines accompanied by her favourite quote from each character. To start with the water colour illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and the characters depicted are from a wide variety of literature. The portraits made me re-evaluate how I’ve imagined the characters from the books I’ve already read and I know I’ll be returning to this book each time I read more of the novels involved. Although this book takes a very short time to read, it is a great coffee table book to flick through. I know I will be cherish this for a long time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ellyce

    This is amazing, would make a great gift for any book lover - especially for any women who love classics!! I was floored by the beautiful watercolors. This is amazing, would make a great gift for any book lover - especially for any women who love classics!! I was floored by the beautiful watercolors.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joy (joyous reads)

    Love this book. It's water colour portraits of female literary greats with quotes significant or telling of their characters. It's art and literature which I am a huge fan of. Highly recommended for books and art lovers alike. This is a Picture Book for Grown Ups! Love this book. It's water colour portraits of female literary greats with quotes significant or telling of their characters. It's art and literature which I am a huge fan of. Highly recommended for books and art lovers alike. This is a Picture Book for Grown Ups!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    The watercolor portraits (especially the head-shot ones) in this lovely, lovely book are SO gorgeous. It is worth picking it up just to drool over the art, but it's also a neat concept and introduced me to some female characters I had not heard of before. The watercolor portraits (especially the head-shot ones) in this lovely, lovely book are SO gorgeous. It is worth picking it up just to drool over the art, but it's also a neat concept and introduced me to some female characters I had not heard of before.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    This is a lovely little book; the illustrations are sweet and it was fun to revisit the author's (and most of my) favorite literary heroines. This is a lovely little book; the illustrations are sweet and it was fun to revisit the author's (and most of my) favorite literary heroines.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elyssa (Elyssa's Editions)

    I just bought this at a used book fair and I am obsessed! This is an awesome coffee table style book where each page has a beautiful artistic rendering of a classic book and then a quote from same book. It is fun to flip through or read cover to cover.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    The watercolors are beautiful, the characters are great, and it is just overall delightful. Not much reading, but I can tell they put some thought into the quotes they picked... plus Lorelei (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) was in it. 💜 I count this as a win.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marta :}

    The portraits are so beautiful and the quotes are perfectly chosen! I loved it!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I will revisit these gorgeous illustrations and quotations many, many times. Also, a good inspiration to revisit some old favorites and read some books that I’ve missed so far!

  28. 5 out of 5

    حسناء

    this book is a piece of Art

  29. 4 out of 5

    Colette

    Beautiful art, but lacks diversity with virtually no BIPOC / Women and Authors of Color. The only one I've seen depicted is illustrated in very, very light color. It's time to do better. Beautiful art, but lacks diversity with virtually no BIPOC / Women and Authors of Color. The only one I've seen depicted is illustrated in very, very light color. It's time to do better.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brenna

    Short and enjoyable! The beautiful portraits are to die for. I can definitely see myself rereading this regularly. It is perfect for a rough day that just needs a little bit of added beauty.

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