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7 of Our Favorite Flawed Female Protagonists

Swan Huntley’s debut novel, We Could Be Beautiful, is a spellbinding psychological thriller about a wealthy woman who has everything, yet trusts no one. Catherine is a very complex protagonist whose upbringing among Manhattan’s elite social class has led to a marked disconnection from reality. She drifts through life surrounded by beautiful and expensive things, but she still feels empty. She craves a romantic connection and eventually finds one with William Stockton, a handsome and enigmatic gentleman who seems to fit into her life perfectly. But, as we all know, things are not always as they first appear.

The New York Times Book Review raves, “The book’s strengths lie . . . most of all, in Catherine’s voice—strange and funny and engaging to the very end.” Catherine is a deeply flawed individual, but it is her shortcomings that make her such a compelling heroine. She got us thinking: Who are some other imperfect female protagonists that we can’t help but love? Keep reading to find out!

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley

“A riveting psychological thriller, Huntley’s debut takes you inside the world of Manhattan’s elite—and keeps you on tenterhooks.” —People, Book of the Week

Catherine West has spent her entire life surrounded by beautiful things. But after two broken engagements and boyfriends who wanted only her money, she is worried that she’ll never have a family of her own.
Then at an art opening Catherine meets William Stockton, a handsome banker who shares her impeccable taste and whose parents once moved in the same circles as Catherine’s. But as William and Catherine grow closer, she begins to encounter strange signs. Her mother, now suffering lapses in memory, seems to hate William on sight. Is William lying about his past? And if so, is Catherine willing to sacrifice their beautiful life in order to find the truth?

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closeClose Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

“Suspenseful, provocative, often terrifying yet compassionate. . . . One of the most memorable teenage protagonists in recent fiction.” —The Washington Post

Emily Shepard is on the run; the nuclear plant where her father worked has suffered a cataclysmic meltdown, and all fingers point to him. Now, orphaned, homeless, and certain that she’s a pariah, Emily takes to hiding out on the frigid streets of Burlington, Vermont, creating a new identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson.

Then she meets Cameron. Nine years old and with a string of foster families behind him, he sparks something in Emily, and she protects him with a fierceness she didn’t know she possessed. But when an emergency threatens the fledgling home she’s built, Emily realizes that she can’t hide forever.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

“It is as if Emily Brontë could tear up all that we know human beings by, and fill these unrecognizable transparencies with such a gust of life that they transcend reality.” —Virginia Woolf

Perhaps the most haunting and tormented love story ever written, Wuthering Heights is the tale of the troubled orphan Heathcliff and his doomed love for Catherine Earnshaw.
Published in 1847, the year before Emily Brontë’s death at the age of thirty, Wuthering Heights has proved to be one of the nineteenth century’s most popular yet disturbing masterpieces. The windswept moors are the unforgettable setting of this tale of the love between the foundling Heathcliff and his wealthy benefactor’s daughter Catherine. Through Catherine’s betrayal of Heathcliff and his bitter vengeance, their mythic passion haunts the next generation even after their deaths. Incorporating elements of many genres—from gothic novels and ghost stories to poetic allegory—and transcending them all, Wuthering Heights is a mystifying and powerful tour de force.

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Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding

“Our favorite hapless heroine.” —Vogue

Bridget Jones, beloved Singleton and global phenomenon, is back—with a bump! This gloriously funny story tells us what happened between The Edge of Reason and Mad About the Boy, revealing how our heroine came to be a mum.

Before motherhood, before marriage, Bridget, with her biological clock ticking very, very loudly, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at the eleventh hour, a joyful time nonetheless dominated by a crucial and terribly awkward question—which of her ex-boyfriends is the father? Mark Darcy: honorable, decent, notable human rights lawyer? Or the incorrigible Daniel Cleaver: charming, witty, notorious ladies’ man? In this page-turning tale of baby-deadline panic, maternal bliss, and social, professional, technological, culinary, and childbirth chaos, Bridget navigates a pregnancy full of cheesy potatoes, outlandish advice from Smug Mothers, chaos at scans and childbirth classes, high jinks, and romance.

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robberThe Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

“Funny, thoughtful, moving. . . . Atwood’s plotting is masterful, and her humor is razor-edged, sexy, and raucous.” —The Washington Post

From the extraordinary imagination of the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid’s Tale comes one of her most intricate and subversive novels. Set in contemporary Toronto, The Robber Bride revolves around the lives of three fascinating women. Classmates from university, Roz, Charis, and Tony all shared the seductive and destructive experience of a past friendship with the flashy, sensuous, smart, irresistible Zenia. As the novel opens, they are twenty years past their college days and have met at Zenia’s funeral, but things take a dramatic turn after the funeral at lunch, when they spot Zenia—not dead at all and up to no good.

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veronicaVeronica by Mary Gaitskill

“Gaitskill is enormously gifted. . . . [Veronica] is a masterly examination of the relationship between surface and self, culture and fashion, time and memory.” —The New York Times Book Review

Alison and Veronica meet amid the nocturnal glamour of 1980s New York: One is a young model stumbling away from the wreck of her career, the other an eccentric middle-aged office temp. Over the next twenty years their friendship will encompass narcissism and tenderness, exploitation and self-sacrifice, love and mortality. Moving seamlessly between present and past, casting a fierce yet compassionate eye on two eras and their fixations, the result is a work of timeless depth and moral power.

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dragonThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

“Wildly suspenseful. . . . An intelligent, ingeniously plotted, utterly engrossing thriller.” —The Washington Post

Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson’s thrilling Millennium series featuring Lisbeth Salander.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, disappeared more than forty years ago. All these years later, her now aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

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