In which I name five fascinating bookish book-loving characters

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lately, a lot of books I've been reading feature characters who love books.I'm not sure if I'm noticing this just now, or if I'm just coming across this by plain chance, but it's quite fascinating to read books having such characters. I enjoy comparing my reading tastes with those characters. But most often, these characters mention the well-known classics to be their favorite, and if someone had to write me into a book, I doubt I will name a classic. Not because I don't like them, but I don't feel I need to express my love for them to let the other person know that I love reading.

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:

Sara, 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.

CeeCee, 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)

Vidya, 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.

Kay, 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?

Aibileen, 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?

10 comments:

Lucia said...

HI, I like your post. I read a book called 'Special Topics in Calamity Physics,' and not only was the central character very bookish, but the author actually referenced-and I'm talking the Harvard system of intext referencing-each book that was mentioned. It was an interesting read.

Madigan McGillicuddy said...

Hidden Wives sounds a lot like The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. The character doesn't steal books though... there's a library truck that she sneaks out to meet.

Molly said...

Great idea for a post!

I absolutely LOVED Aibileen and want to re-read the book just to be with her again.

bermudaonion said...

I think often times people who need an escape turn to books (not sure what that says about us) so having characters who face obstacles be readers just makes sense to me. I'm sad to say I haven't read any of those books.

Lady Q said...

Grrat post! The main character, Elizabeth, in Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness is very bookish spinster and a big fan of Mary Wollstonecraft!

Felicia the Geeky Blogger said...

That is a great post! I just bought The Help and can't wait to listen to it :)

Cat said...

The bookish characters that come to mind are

Young Flavia in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley who imagines ....heaven is a library that's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

And I'm reading Savage Lands by Clare Clark in which Elizabeth is about to travel to the New World and unpacks the linen her aunt has packed in her trunk and replaces it with her beloved books.

Great post!

Mystica said...

Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice

The1stdaughter said...

It's funny when you ask a question like that I start thinking and thinking and nothing comes...blah! There are tons of characters I've loved, but sometimes they all mush together for me. If I was to pick one, I'd probably go with Hermione from Harry Potter, there's just something about her independence and smarts as well as her ability to still be a "girl". Just refreshing in a world with female characters who are either way too strong or weak in their own way.

I honestly can't wait to read The Help! I have a copy on my shelf and I am reading it with my book club here in a month or so, I can't wait!

You should check out Jen's Character Connection at her site The Introverted Reader. She does this once a week and it's so cool!

Lisa said...

Now adding "Climbing The Stairs" to the wish list.