Clare Furniss’s gorgeous second novel tells of pregnant teenager Hattie and her estranged great aunt Gloria going on a road trip, and we just want to be Gloria when we grow up.
Clare Furniss has stopped by to share more badass older ladies from page and screen.
When I started writing ‘How Not to Disappear’, which tells the story of pregnant teenager Hattie going on a road trip with her great aunt Gloria, there were lots of things I didn’t know about the story. One thing I did know for sure was that Gloria wasn’t going to be a stereotypical ‘sweet old lady’. She was partly inspired by the older women in my family – who were strong, independent, funny, and spoke their minds – and by the ‘bad ass’ women I admire in books and films. Here are just some of my favourites:
At first glance she’s a dear little old lady, but she’s tenacious, smart, and loves making keen young policemen look like bumbling amateurs. Very politely of course.
Minerva McGonagall in the ‘Harry Potter’ books by JK Rowling
Fearsome, clever, brave: Minerva McGonagall, Professor, Animagus and all-round hero. We all had teachers like her at school that didn’t stand for any nonsense but had a twinkle in their eye. However, most of them couldn’t turn into cats…
Sophie in ‘Memory’ by Margaret Mahy
Sophie, in this wonderful book by Margaret Mahy, was part of the inspiration for Gloria in ‘How Not to Disappear’. She is in the grip of Alzheimer’s but despite her confusion is full of life and character.
Maud in ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey
Maud also has dementia but she is determined to find her friend Elizabeth and she won’t give up.
Cleopatra in ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’ by William Shakespeare
She’s past her ‘salad days’ but Cleopatra’s ‘infinite variety’ has Anthony captivated. She’s sexy, clever, powerful, and inspires fierce loyalty. As she puts it herself, ‘I will not be triumphed over’.
Mrs Bennett in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
Ok, she’s annoying, embarrassing and she’s not going to win any prizes for tact, but I always think Mrs Bennett gets a bit of a bad press. She knows that if her daughters don’t get married they’re going to be destitute and so rightly rages at the unfairness of it but is cunning at the same time.
‘M’ in the ‘James Bond’ films
M, the authoritative Head of MI6 played by Judi Dench, isn’t a Bond girl, she’s a Bond woman, and she’s not to be messed with.
The Lady in ‘The Dark is Rising’ series by Susan Cooper
The Lady in Susan Cooper’s wonderful ‘The Dark is Rising’ is the most powerful of the Old Ones, on the side of the light. Inspired by mythical figures and Arthurian legend she’s also a warm, wise and enigmatic character – a pivotal figure throughout the series.
Mary Shepherd in ‘The Lady in the Van’ by Alan Bennett
In the film version of Alan Bennett’s play, Maggie Smith plays the eccentric Mary Shepherd who really did live in a van on Alan Bennett’s drive. Difficult, often downright rude, with some extremely antisocial habits, she has a hidden past and a great musical talent that we discover as her story unravels.
The matriarch who every ‘Harry Potter’ fan wants to be their mum, strong-willed Molly has seven kids but she welcomes Harry into her home like an extra son. She can be pretty fierce but she’s warm and loving, and she knits a mean Christmas jumper. You just don’t want to cross her, as Bellatrix Lestrange finds out!
Not read ‘How Not to Disappear’? Grab your copy here!
Tell us about your favourite badass fictional ladies at @maximumpopbooks!
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