Do authors deliberately introduce such characters? Sometimes, I notice that the book-loving characteristic of that character has no bearing on the story. The plot would have worked either way. So why do you think we have authors mentioning such characters? Sometimes, it almost feels like a teaser.
Let me list the five most fascinating bookish characters I've come across recently:
Hidden Wives by Claire Avery: Sara is growing up in a polygamous cult where reading is not encouraged and education means learning about their religious beliefs. All this bugs her because she loves to read. One day, when she is sent to the grocery store to buy something for home, she comes across the books section. Secretly, she puts a book into her purse and walks out after paying for the remaining things. Soon after she is done with her book, she returns to the store to replace the book and "steal" another one. Ok, I have to say that I was impressed by what Sara did. I have always wondered whether people really did that. It's not so hard. We all walk in with big bags and then there's this whole isolated section in your grocery store packed with books (Isolated yes! I rarely see anyone in that section and that disappoints me.) Yeah, I'm sure there are cameras as well. So it's not exactly the most ethical thing to do, but I am impressed nevertheless.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman: When CeeCee's mother dies, her father leaves her to the care of her aunt, Tootie. CeeCee is however allowed to take only one box of books, and she has to choose among the many books she owns. Of course she argued and fidgeted, but no, the rule remains. I can't imagine even being in that situation, though I'm sure we have all been through that. How many times have we moved home, only to give up a few books and then buy more after we move? But, even then, we take more books with us than we give away, I would imagine. Say you have to move somewhere and you can take only a tiny fraction with you. Which book comes first to mind? (psst..psst.. this is a great way to get recommendations also)
Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman: Vidya is probably my most favorite bookish character from this bunch. In her ancestral home, she is not allowed to visit the upstairs library, since upstairs is where the menfolk are, and women aren't allowed there. Vidya, however defies family traditions and accepted customs to go there every evening in secret and read some book. And, when she's caught, she marches directly to the head of the family and requests access. I could have easily considered this character as unrealistic because she seems to get her way. Except that I know a few people like that - who know what they want and how to get it. As in the case of Sara above, I would have lost my mind if I was barred from reading. Imagine some new weird constitutional obligation like that. Ugh.. And yet it persists in some parts of the world.
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman: After her divorce, Kay gets depressed and starts reading books. She realizes that she loves books so much she doesn't really need a companion. The book had one awesome quote about this, but since I don't have a copy with me right now, I am not able to share it with you. I can say that I've felt that many a time - that books will do fine for me, and I don't need company. But those thoughts come to me only when I am reading. All other times, I need company, and that's precisely why I've taken to haunt coffee shops as I write my thesis, because I can't fathom being all alone at home with no sign of humanity around. Kay says that whenever she entertains her kids, she still casts a wistful glance to the book she was reading, but she somehow restrains herself. So yeah, I have had that thought many a time, especially when I am a few pages away from unveiling a murder. How about you? Guilty of these thoughts?
The Help by Kathryn Stockett: My recollection of this book is thinner. Aibileen used to read voraciously when she could enter the town library. But once the African Americans are barred from entering, she misses reading so much and confesses this to Skeeter. (Please correct me if I got my facts wrong.) Aibileen's sadness at not being able to borrow books from the library was so poignant. I'm not sure I can survive on that. But this reminds me that there are plenty of people out there who would love to read but cannot, either because they don't know to read or because they can't afford buying books or borrowing them from a library, or even because of severe governmental restrictions such as what Aibileen suffered through. And then, I stare at my mountain of books sitting here and just gulp at my childish enthusiasm when I buy them. What do we do?
Who are your favorite bookish characters?