4 Books with Sensible Heroines

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Jessica Yang

Staff Writer

Jessica grew up in Silicon Valley, yet somehow ended up rather inept at technology. She dreams of reading luxurious novels all day in a greenhouse, and is guilty of writing puns for money. Majoring in Japanese and English literature made her both wary and weary of the Western canon. She can be bribed with milk tea. Follow her on Twitter @jamteayang.

Your average heroine is spontaneous, brave, inspiring, and, well, a host of other positive things. And don’t get me wrong, I love just about every fictional heroine I lay eyes on. But I’ll always have a place in my heart specially reserved for sensible heroines.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane AustenYou know what I’m talking about—the main characters who take the practical route, like a bracing cup of tea with their strategizing, and always get the job done. They might be just a little bit dull (to other characters! certainly not to me), but you can always count on them to know what to do and see things for what they really are. And sensible heroines aren’t as uncommon as you’d think. Here are my top four…

Elinor Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility 

We might as go all the way back to the classics for this! The Jane Austen heroine Elinor is the sense to her sister’s spontaneous and theatrical sensibility. Elinor remains coolheaded as she maneuvers the ups and downs of her (and her sister’s!) romantic life, along with the meddlings of their relatives. It’s nice to see the practical Elinor get a happy ending.

Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. WredeCimorene and Morwen in Calling on Dragons 

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles series by Patricia C. Wrede is probably why I love sensible heroines so much. I reread this quirky fantasy series countless times as a kid. Cimorene may be a princess, but she’d rather organize a library and uncover villainous plots then be “rescued” from dragons. Her way of foiling her enemies runs the gamut from brilliant to hilariously mundane (soapy water scented with lemons, anyone?). And Morwen the witch is the definition of practical. She’s got talking cats, but because they’re good for magic working, not for the #aesthetic. If you’re panicking over some magical mishap, she’ll sit you down for some cider and food, and talk things through with you. Morwen is basically my role model.

Laurinda by Alice PungLucy in Lucy and Linh (aka Laurinda)

As a working class daughter of immigrants, Lucy doesn’t fit in at her all-girls private school. But as she’s drawn deeper into the twisted world of her school’s social politics, she maintains a clear-eyed view of everything that’s going on. She sees racism and the manipulative machinations of her peers for what it really is. She’s sensible and determined, in a way that breaks your heart. Alice Pung’s book is a must-read.

Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle

Sophie is the ultimate sensible heroine, and it’s such an integral part of the plot, too! When Sophie’s father dies and her sisters leave home, she dutifully works in the family hat shop. Being transformed into an old lady does nothing to stop Sophie, who (very sensibly) decides to take matters into her own hands and not bother her family—aw, Sophie! Diana Wynne Jones portrayed so many sensible heroines in her books, and I love it.

How do you feel about sensible heroines? Do you think they’re awesome, or just plain boring? And who are some of your favorite sensible heroines?