Author of the African Diamond Trilogy and creator of characters Jenny Bishop and Esther Rousseau.

Christopher Lowery

Christopher Lowery

‘Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.’ (The three witches, Shakespeare’s Macbeth).

The witches mix a heady brew that only strong and wily women could concoct. Let’s imagine it comprises some of the strongest characteristics displayed by the literary feminine gender in some of my favourite books.

Marian Halcome, (The Woman in White, 1859 by Wilkie Collins), who the dastardly Count Fosco describes as, ‘A new breed of woman’. ‘Where are your eyes? Can you look at Miss Halcombe, and not see that she has the foresight and the resolution of a man?’ Marian’s strength of character and refusal to bow down to important men save her sister from a dreadful fate, ‘For there is no friend like a sister’. Wilkie Collins is acknowledged as the first writer of detective novels, but he is also the writer who created a woman who states, ‘My courage was only a woman's courage after all.’

A sensible appreciation of her own cleverness, but which never spills over into conceit – Maggie Tulliver, (Mill on the Floss, 1860 by George Eliot), (who was in fact a woman named Mary Anne Evans). Maggie and her brother Tom are driven apart in life by their differences. After the shock and mortification of the bankruptcy of their father, she renounces the world and its harsh treatment of her and her family, whilst he is motivated to succeed. They are reconciled, as always, when they die. On the tomb, below Tom and Maggie's names, is written, "In their death they were not divided."

Elizabeth Bennett, (Pride and Prejudice, 1813 by Jane Austin). The second of five daughters, she is described as an intelligent young woman, with ‘a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous’. In a world when young women and their parents, (especially their mothers), sought wealthy husbands, suitors come and go, and the other sisters are married off. However, Elizabeth decides she will marry for love, even if it takes a lifetime to find the perfect man. In the event, and to the satisfaction of all, Mr Darcy turns out to be lovable and rich.

Catherine Earnshaw, (Wuthering Heights, 1847 by Emily Bronte), is a selfish, self-centred woman, who cannot decide between Heathcliff, her childhood friend whom she sees as her soulmate, and Edgar Linton, a man who can give her security and social position. Heathcliff is a complex, jealous man and when Catherine marries Edgar, he leaves England. But Catherine dies bearing Edgar’s daughter, after realising, too late, her love for Heathcliff. Upon his return, he is haunted by her memory until they too are reunited in death. This is a powerful novel of love, hatred, pride, greed, envy, wrath; in fact it could have been called, ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’.

Every good ‘people stew’ should have a comic personality and mine is Lady Augusta Bracknell, (The Importance of Being Ernest, 1895 by Oscar Wilde). Having come from a modest background and married into the aristocracy, Lady Bracknell is the perfect snob, chastising the adopted hero, Jack Worthing, ‘To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness’. She is an arrogant, overbearing and ignorant character who Wilde uses to parody the ridiculous ‘entitled’ attitude of the upper-classes in Victorian England.

My female protagonists, Jenny Bishop and Esther Rousseau are opposites in almost every way; Jenny believes in using her intellect, imagination and persuasive powers for good, Esther uses her sexuality and wily cunning for evil. My own heroines, who have influenced me in my life and my writing are my late mother, Lilian May, my cherished wife of 52 years, Marjorie, and my amazing daughter, Kerry-Jane. They are real women, not fictitious characters.

The Dark Web by Christopher Lowery is published by Urbane Publications.