There are plenty of books out there where the characters take second place to a well crafted story which is all well and good but for me, it is a wonderful character that stays with you long after the book is finished. There are some characters that are so compelling you could send them around the supermarket and it would be gripping.
With this in mind, I thought I’d have a look at my top 10 favourite characters of all time.
The ultimate bad boy, a sociopath with a thirst for revenge but for some reason, the biggest crush a literary lover can have. He’s got it all, mysterious past, brooding nature and absolutely no redeeming qualities. This makes it such a mystery why Heathcliff is one of the most enduring and intriguing anti-heroes the written word has ever produced and all from the pen of a spinster on the remote Yorkshire moors. This gives it all the more mystery, who was Heathcliff?
Did you know – Wuthering Heights was possibly the first self publish success story. After numerous rejections, Emily Bronte paid £50 to have it published to a critical mauling and she died before the characters from the Yorkshire moors took a hold of the world which they have never let go.
Jude (Little Life)
I constantly go on about Jude from A Little Life and for good reason. He is the literary character that has had the most profound effect upon me. When I read the book, I was worrying about him when I was away from the pages. There is something so powerful about his story and so accessible about him that even though he leads you to very dark places, you feel such strong emotions for him that you gladly accompany him just so he isn’t alone. If you haven’t read this book yet, what are you waiting for?
Did you know – author Yanagihara found the experience of creating Jude’s world so immersive she has said that she may never write anything again.
If I had a daughter, I would make her read these books. Finally a hero for young girls who doesn’t resort to stereotype or play second fiddle to a far superior male character. Lyra is a wonderful character, she is clever and full of vitality, even when a boy does show up, he is content to play second fiddle to her. She is the driving force of these books and we can all see a part of ourselves in the strange child from another Oxford.
Did you know – after a failed attempt at a Hollywood trilogy, Lyra is coming to the small screen with the BBC currently producing a lavish eight parter starring James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Dafne Keen as Lyra.
Even in 1970s San Francisco a dope smoking transsexual character was a stretch but the way that Armisted Maupin created Anna Madrigal, she crossed over into the mainstream effortlessly and must have done wonders for the trans rights movement that sadly faces their biggest threat at the moment. Madrigal presides over a band of misfits with a regal air and imparts wisdom but we get to see her faults as well making her a wonderfully rounded and lovable character.
Did you know – Originally the Tales of the City were serials in a newspaper so the immediacy allowed Maupin to introduce a lot of modern ideas rather than waiting to go through the publishing process
Scout is probably one of the first times you really fall in love with a character in a book. We all felt very grown up reading this for the first time whether it was a school text or for pleasure and seeing such a shocking and brutal world through the eyes of the wonderful Finch has had a profound effect on countless children the world over. It was a clever way of Harper Lee to bring the horrors of 60s America to the masses and it is still as relevant today as it ever was.
Did you know – To Kill A Mockingbird was voted the number one book to read before you die
The daughter of a time traveller she investigates crimes by jumping in and out of novels ably assisted by her pet dodo, Pickwick? Confused? Well I don’t blame you but Jasper Fforde has created an absolute classic of a series here starting off with The Eyre Affair and following Thursday through a series of adventures that get more bizarre and more compelling with each book. But the character of Thursday is the perfect vehicle for the reader to explore this strange alternative universe, she is down to earth and plucky, ingredients we can’t help but be drawn to.
Did you know – the name comes from Fforde’s mum who used to refer to next Thursday as Thursday Next.
Mary Barton was the first character that Elizabeth Gaskell used to convey the squalor of Manchester in the grip of the Industrial Revolution. She cleverly hid her agenda amongst a suspenseful murder mystery and the strength of the central character to fix what is wrong in her world is addictive.
Did you know – this was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel and was inspired by a real life murder of a mill owner in Manchester.
He needs no introduction really but I couldn’t do a top 10 without Mr Potter. He not only defeated Voldemort and saved the world but he also revived at least one generation’s love of reading and brought pleasure to millions of children and adults alike. It had been quite some time since we could all lose ourselves in a world of shared wonder and amazement and Rowling provided that to us for which we should all be grateful.
Did you know – the Harry Potter series has sold in the region of 500 million books making it the most successful series of books ever.
19th Century French novelist Emile Zola was never known for pulling his punches, dealing with themes such as prostitution, alcoholism, poverty and class struggle. But Raquin is probably his most relatable character. Trapped in a loveless marriage she makes a bad decision and is haunted by this as the novel progresses. Whilst the story is no comedy, the character of Therese is endearing.
Did you know – whilst the content of the novel shocked, Zola felt that he was teaching a moral lesson that sexual pleasure only leads to brutality.
So Elizabeth Bennet tends to hold the pole position when it comes to Austen characters but in my opinion she’s a bit of a sap. I much prefer Emma Woodhouse, she has a bit more about her, she’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination yet she’s the one you’d be mates with. She is funny and a bit daring without being too scandalous, this is Austen after all. If you haven’t read this often overshadowed work, give it a whirl.
Did you know that the 1995 film Clueless was a modernisation of the story?
There we go, who are your favourite literary characters? Let me know in the comments below.