Now back in print, this feminist classic explores how women define themselves and their lives in terms of novels. Many of the greatest novels in English have women as their protagonists, and women have always been the novel's most faithful readers. Why is it that fiction and women relate so intimately?;In this spirited and intelligent book, Rachel Brownstein argues that readers are both affected and reflected by classic English novels, which focus, more often than not, on a woman whose choosing of a husband amounts to the choosing of a self.;Three sections of the book--Being Perfect, Getting Married, and Thinking It Over--are devoted to defining the heroine as a fiction that shapes actual lives as well as traditional narratives. For like the central character, the novel reader confronts this powerful idea of the heroine and like her, is conscious of her own distance from it.;Brownstein also examines how the stories we read influence our notions of how we should live and seeks to understand how novelists have construed heroism in feminine life. In fresh, wonderfully nuanced readings of works by Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf, she considers woman-centered novels as rewritings of romance, and analyzes the thematic links and echoes that connect these works not only to each other but to women's lives.;This splendidly provocative book shows how good novels, intelligent heroines, and careful readers are skeptical of the romantic ideal of a perfected, integral self.