Top Ten Tuesday: Thankful Freebie: Friends and Family

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 22: Thankful Freebie

If I had to choose what I’m most thankful for, it would definitely be the people I love. So this list celebrates friends, family, and friends that are like family.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell – During lockdown, the TV show The Durrells in Corfu (or just The Durrells, depending on where you live) was wonderful comfort food for me, so I picked up one of the books by Gerald Durrell, the youngest child in the family. Like the show it was lovely and comforting. Interesting note: two others became writers as well. The oldest, Laurence Durrell is the author of a number of novels, and one of the middle children, Margo, is the author of a memoir.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – First thing to note is that the family in this book is very dysfunctional! This actually gets pretty dark at some points, but I think the takeaway is ultimately about the transformative power of friendship (even if we think we don’t need it), and that’s a positive we’re left with after the tough stuff.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Yes, there is some darkness and sadness here too. But seeing people get through hard times with the help of loved ones helps me feel better about my own tough times. At different points in my life I’ve related to most to different March sisters, but I’ve “known” them all for so long that they all feel a bit like family to me!

A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara – I’m hesitant to include this here, because it is so dark and disturbing. If you have any issues around abuse, self-harming, sexual assault, drug use, or a host of other things, be warned! But the depiction of found family in this book is very beautiful. The book asks if that kind of tight knit bond can buffer someone against years of trauma. The answers are always comfortable, but I think at the end we’re still left with something beautiful.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan – This book incorporates family, but also strong, tight friendships that last for over forty years, from one generation to the next. It’s these friendships that help the main character of this novel better understand her mother (with whom she’s had issues in the past). I love that the lines between “friend” and “family” in this book are so indistinct.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Yes, some of the Bennetts are easy to mock. But I do think that Mrs. B gets kind of a bad rap. As ridiculous as she seems, her family has a very real problem. Five girls and no son to inherit means that they’re all homeless when Mr. B dies, unless the girls get married before then. Even though Mr. B doesn’t seem to want to deal with this, the family still pulls together in a crisis. They still support one another and celebrate with each other. While Lizzie is closer to some family members over others, she cares for them all very deeply.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – You have to love the Mortmains! They live at a strange point somewhere between rich and poor (they live in a castle with servants but don’t always have enough to eat.) and definitely crazy, but loving nonetheless. When their family comes into contact with another family, everything is thrown into flux.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – This is another book I had reservations about including on this list, for the reasons described here. But in spite of those reservations, this book does have a beautiful depiction of a rather unusual found family.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – A fortune teller tells the four siblings the dates of their deaths. As they move forward with those dates in their minds, they must figure out how to balance their family bonds and obligations with their desire to avoid that predicted ending.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – This is the story of a blended family over the course of several decades. Six children (siblings and step-siblings) spend the summers together and form a family bond. When they grow up, one of the kids writes a book about their family, which forces them all into uncomfortable positions. I like that this book depicts stepfamilies in a way that’s not positive or negative per se. Like any other family it has its pluses and its minuses.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – Korede’s sister, Ayoola, is… difficult to say the least! But I found Korede’s devotion to her kind of moving, albeit morally questionable. What are the limits we go to to protect family? What factors influence that decision. The is a satirical novel, that poses some interesting questions

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Top Ten Tuesday: Literary “Fanfiction”

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

February 1: Books with Names/Character Names In the Titles (Submitted by BookLoversBlog and Lucy @ Bookworm Blogger)

But that didn’t really grab me, so I decided to go in my own direction.

This week I decided to do books about other books: minor characters, pretend sequels, reimaginings, “what ifs” and the like. I love seeing the different ways that authors write into an existing work of literature. It’s almost like the author having a conversation with the original book:

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – This Jane Eyre prequel imagines the pre-attic life of the first Mrs. Rochester. It’s a fascinating post-colonial response to Jane Eyre. In only about 150 pages, Rhys touches on race, class, sex, gender, philosophy and psychology. I wish I could know what Bronte would have thought if she’d had the opportunity to read it.

Longbourn by Jo BakerPride and Prejudice fanfiction is a cottage industry in itself (here are just a few!). They range from very good, to…not so good. But Longbourn stands out to me because it looks at the people who are just barely visible to Austen readers – the servants. While the Bennets worried about marrying off their daughters, things were going on below stairs. It can get rather icky and crude, but such is the life of a servant!

On Beauty by Zadie Smith – Smith calls this novel an “homage” to EM Forster’s Howard’s End. There are a number of parallels throughout. Though it’s set roughly a century after Forster’s novel On Beauty deals with the bequeathing of a valuable inheritance to a nonfamily member, as well as the overall plot about two families with very different backgrounds and values slowly becoming linked and intertwined.

March by Geraldine Brooks – In the first part of Little Women, the March family patriarch is absent from the family, fighting in the Civil War. In this novel we see exactly what he was up to. Actually, part of the novel is also told from Marmee’s (his wife’s) point of view when see is caring for him, and then it switches back to his perspective again. Mr. March was based on Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott. It gives a vision of the March family that’s very different from what we see in Little Women.

Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin – In Dr. Jekyll’s house, Mary Reilly works as a maid. She begins to bond with her employer, but is asked to run errands for him and his associate Mr. Hyde that take her to dark places. She begins to have horrible suspicions of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Ahab’s Wife: The Star Gazer” by Sena Jeter Naslund – This novel was inspired by a mere passage in Moby Dick mentioning such a character. While most of the action of the novel is outside of Moby Dick totally, the sea is a constant presence in this novel. I haven’t read Moby Dick yet, but this book made me want to give it a try!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller– I was actually torn between this and Circe by the same author, but I decided on this one because it comes “first” (though both books work as stand alones.) This book reimagines The Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, who loved Achilles. Circe imagines the life of the witch who turned Odysseus’ men to pigs in The Odyssey (in this we learn here she had a good reason.)

Foe by JM Coetzee – This reimagines the story of Robinson Crusoe and makes us question everything we thought we knew. In 1920 writer, Daniel Foe is approached by Susan Barton, formerly a castaway on a desert island. She tells him the story of Cruso, a fellow castaway. But Foe turns the story into something of his own invention.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye – I suppose I would call a “Jane Eyre adjacent” book. The story begins with orphaned Jane Steele’s immortal words “Reader, I murdered him,” in reference to her cruel, predatory cousin. She is sent to a horrible boarding school and then makes her way to London and finally Highgate House, home of her new employer Mr. Charles Thornfield. At every stop she leaves a few bodies behind her. This is primarily just a lot of fun.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham – This novel imagines Virginia Woolf as she writes Mrs. Dalloway. In separate timelines, it also imagines a woman reading the novel who is deeply affected by it, and a sort of modern day reincarnation of the main character.

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey– In Great Expectations, the main character is impacted by an early encounter with the convict, Magwitch. In this novel we get to know who Magwitch really is. Maggs returns to England from the prison island of Australia with vengeance on his mind. His journey takes him across London society.

Top Ten Tuesday: Secondary/Minor Characters Who Deserve More Love

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

August 10: Secondary/Minor Characters Who Deserve More Love -Warning, some of these have spoilers

1. Beth in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Beth’s description is pretty much summed as “the sweet one who dies.” That’s what she’s remembered for. But I recently read March Sisters: On Love, Death and Little Women, in which four contemporary writers look back on the March sister that resonated with them most. Carmen Maria Machado writes about Beth, and how her illness and death take over anything else she may have been, both for her sisters and for readers. Beth was based on Alcott’s own sister, Lizzie, who also died young (though not quite as young as Beth). While Alcott seemed to remember Lizzie in much the way the March sisters do Beth, there’s historical evidence to suggested that Lizzie Alcott was more than simply someone who died tragically young. That makes me suspect that Beth may also have more going on than she’s given credit for.

2. Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare – Mercutio steals almost every scene that he’s in, in most productions and adaptations of this play. There’s plenty of LGBT speculation about his relationship with Romeo prior to the action of the play, but even leaving that aside, he’s so vivid and vibrant, witty and cynical, which makes his death even more tragic. He’s not a Montague or a Capulet. He’s simply caught up in their feud because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. But his death is sort of a hinge for the play. Prior to that, there was hope for a less than tragic outcome. But when he’s killed, and Romeo kills Tybalt in revenge, the seeds for the dénouement are sown.

3. Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark TwainHuckleberry Finn got his own book. But Becky was in that cave with Tom and she’s just forgotten and dismissed as the “girlfriend character.” Surely she deserves better!

4. Jane Fairfax in Emma by Jane Austen – Emma is bright, accomplished, pretty, and rich, but she feels a sense of rivalry around Jane. She senses that Jane is an equal and in some ways a superior, and therefore she considers her a threat. That’s what makes the reader initially take notice. Of course when it comes out that Jane been secretly engaged to Frank Churchill (who’s been openly flirting with Emma…) we get the sense that there’s been more going on beneath the surface of Jane. We never really learn what it is though. Joan Aiken wrote some fan fiction speculation in Jane Fairfax but that’s as close as we’ll ever get.

5. Walter Blythe in the later books of the Anne of Green Gables books by LM Montgomery– Like Anne he’s got some literary asperations, and is admired for his ability to “talk book talk” (I love that phrase!) He’s bullied in childhood, but bright and imaginative. Oh, and doomed. He was definitely my favorite of Anne’s children.

6. Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Come on! These guys do just as much work as the main three, they get awfully close to the main action, but they’re constantly relegated to the sidelines.

7. Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen– Kitty and Lydia are the silly ones. Jane and Lizzie are the smart ones. But what is Mary? There’s been plenty of fan fiction (just a few examples here) speculating that there’s something more to her than just the middle child. I really tried to limit myself to only one Austen character (I also think Charlotte Lucas and Mrs. Bennet deserve more love) but I found I had to do two.

8. Great Uncle Matthew from Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild– He’s Sylvia’s uncle and he takes care of her following the death of her parents, but we don’t know much more than that really… He’s geologist who seems to go around the world collecting parentless babies? Surely there’s got to be more to the story than that!

9. Molly Grue from The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – Molly dreamed all her life of seeing a unicorn. When she finally does, she’s no longer young and beautiful. She tells the unicorn off for taking so long, saying “‘Where have you been…Damn you, where have you been?… Where where you twenty years ago, ten years ago? How dare you, how dare you come to me now, when I am this?‘ With a flap of her hand she summed herself up: barren face, desert eyes, and yellowing heart. ‘I wish you had never come. Why did you come now?’ The tears began to slide down the sides of her nose.” I think that sense of missed opportunity is heartbreaking. I think that the fact that Molly reacts to it with anger first is such a human thing to do, that it makes it even more heartbreaking. She deserves more love.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Had Sequels (The Sequel)

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

July 13: Book Titles That are Questions

But I feel like I just did a book title list recently and I wanted to mix it up a little. So I found an old topic that I thought sounded interesting.

Standalone Books That I Wish Had Sequels

I found this kind of tough, because most of these I like as standalones, even if I want to know what happened next. Some I left off, because even if they had open endings, I don’t think they’d work with a sequel. I did something like this a while back, but on that one I included books that ended a series that I wished weren’t the end. I also counted sequels by other authors. So I decided to make a new list with actual standalones. Sequels by other authors don’t count on this list. I tried to be fairly general in my comments and not include specific spoilers, but just be warned…:

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- OK this actually does have a sequel that was authorized by the author’s estate, but for the most part, it’s not great. Also based on the rules I made up for this list, sequels by other authors don’t count. I would have liked Scarlett’s next chapter as imagined by Mitchell herself. But it’s also not like I felt that the original book left me in the middle of nowhere. It just left me wanting to know more.

2. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern– I was once again torn between this and The Night Circus for this list. Both have such vivid settings that could be explored further, and neither ties things up in a bow, so there could conceivably be more to the story. I finally decided to go with this one for this list because the setting (literally) lends itself to millions of stories. Also, I put The Night Circus on my first list.

3. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux- I was torn between this book and Deveraux’s other romance with elements of time travel, Remembrance. I just went with this one because it was the first that popped into my mind. In both cases, Deveraux twists the expected “happily ever after” a bit. Not that they don’t have happy endings (it is the romance genre after all!) but not in the ways the reader would expect, so more questions begin to emerge.

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel- This one ends on a hopeful note. It’s a post-apocalyptical novel, so there isn’t much hope through most of it. When it emerges at the end, my biggest question was, “how do people deal with this?” It’s a big change from the status quo for the characters, learning to exist in a world where things may improve. I wanted to know how they handled it!

5. The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente- This is a strange book. It’s supposedly intended for a middle grade audience, but plot deals with the Bronte siblings falling into the fantasy world that they wrote about in their juvenilia. I’m not sure how many middle graders are familiar with the Brontes, let alone their lesser know juvenile works! But I enjoyed it nonetheless. Knowing biographical information about the real life version of characters made me wonder how their book versions would handle some of what I knew was facing them. I was also interested in their evolution from the children depicted in the book to brilliant writers. But a sequel with that stuff would probably take it even farther out of middle grade territory.

6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- I’m fine with where it ended, but I’ve always been curious about what the future holds for Mary, Dickon and Colin. Another author did write a sequel but I’m not counting sequels by other authors for this list.

7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman– I’m kind of curious what happens to Bod when ventures out into the (non-graveyard based) world. How do his daily interactions with the living go? What becomes of him as an adult? Does he find a job? Get married? Live “normal” life? Or does he do something different?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke– I have a conflicted relationship with this book (mostly because I found it way too long!) but it does leave off with a lot of unanswered questions.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen– Let me just preface this by saying that I’m totally fine with this not having a (official) sequel (there are many, many sequels and spin offs and fanfic by other authors!) But I’ve always wondered what became of Kitty and Mary after their sisters got married. I mean, the fact that Lizzie and Jane married money means that they won’t be homeless when their father dies (presumably they could stay with one of them!) but what did they do with their lives? Did they ever marry? Did they do something else? If so, what?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Quotes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 29: Favorite Book Quotes (these could be quotes from books you love, or bookish quotes in general)

  1. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.” —  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

For a character who is “no bird” Jane is often associated with them in this novel. Even her name sounds like “air”. But perhaps it is a free bird, as opposed the the caged bird she calls to mind here, that one associates with Jane the most. No matter what happens she is able able to take off when she chooses. She may seek out greener pastures, or go back to battle old ghosts. I think it takes a lot of nerve for her to assert this actually. At this point in the book, nothing in her life has told her she has value. She’s “poor, obscure, plain, and little,” but she feels that she has intrinsic worth in spite of that. That’s what gives her the guts to assert herself, to take off when she feels it’s necessary, and to refuse to be ensnared.

2. “From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood.” —  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was about 12 and I definitely identified very strongly with Francie. I still do, even though I’m older now. This quote is a perfect example of why. I honestly do feel like books are my friends. Some people might see that as sad, but I see it as having reliable friends who never talk back and never leave me or let me down. (I do also have some actual, human friends too!)

3. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” — Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I’ve always had a tendency to be hard on myself. Even when I was a child, I would take myself to task for my mistakes. I first read this book when I was about nine, and right away something clicked when I read that! It was so freeing to see things that way! Even now, if I have a bad day, I try to remember that there’s always tomorrow, and there are no mistakes in it yet! It doesn’t always help, but I do try to remember it.

4. “How easy it was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives we imagined.” — Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was a more recent read, and a big theme in this book is the perceptions of others vs. self perception. That really resonated with me, even independent of the rest of the book. I think that we constantly create different versions of ourselves with different people. To some extent that’s natural: we behave differently with out friends from adulthood for example, than we do with people who have know us since we were children. But it can be cultivated too. Sometimes we have a sense of how someone else sees us, and we can try to live up to it. How a stranger sees you for the first time is powerful, because it can give us the feeling of a blank slate. We can sort of create ourselves anew.

5. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

This is from a conversation between Gandolf and Frodo, after Gandolf tells Frodo about the Ring. Frodo wishes that this hadn’t happened during his lifetime, and this is Gandolf’s response. They’re words that I’ve thought of a lot through the craziness of 2020. Things happen that we don’t control. But we control our response.

6. “There are few people whom I really love and still fewer of whom I think well.”Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This quote stands out to me because of the distinction made between loving someone and thinking well of them. We often think of loving people as thinking of them in the highest regard. But really, we can love people and not think well of them at all. We can love people and not like them. So the distinction makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

7. “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)” – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Just very true words. People can turn anything into a weapon. They can make things that are supposed to help up, things that are supposed to make us better, destructive. Is that true of everyone? No, of course not. A whisky bottle in the hands on one man may be meaningless. It might simply mean that he likes the taste of whisky and enjoys a glass of it and the end of a long day. But in the hands of another man, it could mean that he’s about to become a violent drunk. Similarly, the Bible is a book that is supposed to teach people to be kind to one another, to help each other. And one person may use it that way. But another may use it as a way to oppress others and even as a justification for it.

8. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” – The White Album by Joan Didion

I just think that this is so true. When something terrible happens, we immediately try to understand it. We try to put it into some kind of workable context. I once lost someone close to me, and I almost immediately tried to put that loss in narrative terms. I thought about how this person’s narrative arc was complete, even though he was young. I was aware that I was imposing a narrative on something that didn’t necessarily have one, but it did help a bit to think of it that way. Stories help us get through life, by escaping it, and sometimes by giving us tolerable ways to understand it.

9. “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”The Twits by Roald Dahl

Once again a children’s book proves that it can articulate something more simply and memorably than something intended for adults. I think that this was something that I tried to convey when I wrote Beautiful. Needless to say, I definitely think it’s true. And the reverse is too. Someone might be totally gorgeous, but if they act like a jerk, sooner or later, they won’t look so appealing.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Parties

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

July 21: Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday (Real or Fictional. Submitted by Nandini @ Unputdownable Books)

I decided to do fictional festivals/events  for this one. I’m not much of a party girl to be honest, but some there are some  literary soirees I might be tempted to attend. I decided that nothing thrown by Jay Gatsby was allowed on this list. Big parties really aren’t my scene.

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_1.  The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– The literary masquerade party in this one sounds like one of the few parties I’d really get into!

“He sits at the bar, feeling like a failure and yet overwhelmed by all that has happened as he attempts to catalog the entire evening. Drank rosemary for remembrance. Looked for a cat. Danced with the king of the wild things. Excellent-smelling man told me a story in the dark. Cat found me.”

61-q3ssh0l._ac_uy218_2. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I might be persuaded to attend Bilbo Baggin’s eleventy first birthday party. If nothing else, I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to attend many eleventy first birthdays in my lifetime.

“I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.” Deafening cheers…. Cries of “Yes” (and “No”). Noises of trumpets and horns…. Indeed, in one corner some of the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to have finished (since he had plainly said all that was necessary), now… began a merry dance-tune. Master Everard Took and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with bells in their hands began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty dance, but rather vigorous.

But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots…. “I shall not keep you long,” he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. “I have called you all together for a Purpose…..” There was almost silence….

91d11myiibl._ac_uy218_3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway’s party. This one has a lot of build up and a gentle success marred only by news of a suicide. Because no party is perfect. But in this case, bad news might make the fun even sweeter.

She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.

71v4ebr1nxl._ac_uy218_4.The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton– One of the most opulent literary parties in my mind is the Wellington-Bry ball when Lily Bart appears in a tableau vivant.

The noble buoyancy of her attitude, its suggestion of soaring grace, revealed the touch of poetry in her beauty that Selden always felt in her presence, yet lost the sense of when he was not with her. Its expression was now so vivid that for the first time he seemed to see before him the real Lily Bart, divested of all the trivialities of her little world, and catching for a moment a note of that eternal harmony of which her beauty was a part.

71cmat1al._ac_uy218_5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- This book (and Austen in general) has a few good parties; but I went with the one where Jane and Mr. Binghly fall in love and Mr. Darcy declares that Lizzie is ” tolerable.”

When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. — I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

513t3s6mwl._ac_uy218_6.Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Note to self: if you ever marry a widower do not attend a costume party dressed as his late wife, however unintentional it may be. And don’t listen to your evil maid’s costume suggestions either. Yes, it’s an awkward party, but it wouldn’t be a boring one.

That was why I had come down last night in my blue dress and had not stayed hidden in my room. There was nothing brave or fine about it, it was a wretched tribute to convention. I had not come down for Maxim’s sake, or Beatrice’s, for the sake of Manderley. I had come down because I did not want the people at the ball to think I had quarreled with Maxim. I didn’t want them to go home and say, “Of course you know they don’t get on. I hear he’s not at all happy.” I had come for my own sake, my own poor personal pride.

71m1o7fy1fl._ac_uy218_7.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– I might go to Mr. Rochester’s house party. If nothing else, the host disguising himself as a fortune teller would be fun!

When I heard this I was beginning to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment; but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over the temporary blunder—how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr. Rochester’s movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a vital interest.

91dwzgedaml._ac_uy218_8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll– I’ve actually never been to a tea party, but if this is anything to go by, they can get pretty wild. Though it might get tiring having to change seats every few minutes…

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I ca’n’t take more.”
“You mean you ca’n’t take less,” said the Hatter: “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

61uzqqwbnnl._ac_uy218_9.Invitation to Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann- Like Mrs. Dalloway’s soiree, Olivia Curtis’ first ball has a whole novel dedicated to it. While her more socially adept sister threatens to overshadow her, this party is both more and less than Oliva expects.

“And they waltzed together to the music made for joy. She danced with him in love and sorrow. He held her close to him, and he was far away from her, far from the music, buried and indifferent. She danced with his youth and his death.”

81e67pau6hl._ac_uy218_10. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding– I’m not much of a drinker, so unlike Bridget, I wouldn’t be hungover at Geoffrey and Una’s New Year’s turkey curry buffet. I would also (always!) be able to tell Mark Darcy a few titles when he asks what I’ve read lately.

“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Character’s I’d Follow on Social Media

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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I really liked this week’s topic:

February 25: Characters I’d Follow On Social Media (submitted by Tilly @thebiblioshelf)

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_1. Anne Shirley from LM Montgomery’s Anne series: Anne’s social media would be positive and upbeat enough for me to feel good when it pops up on my feed, but not so much so that it gets annoying/overbearing.

61vqqqhktdl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I have the sense that her social media would be witty.  It might also be  occasionally judgmental but once you brought that to her attention she’d try to do better in the future. Actually I think a lot of Austen’s characters would be great on social media…

31yhicomrpl-_ac_us218_3. Delysia La Fosse from Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day by Winifred Watson: If social media had existed in the late 1930’s I think that this character would be a social media “influencer.”

51xphws9jdl-_ac_us218_4. Claire Randall Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series: Claire’s funny, self aware observations of life amid 18th century natives and time travelers would make me laugh.

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_5. Circe from Circe by Madeline Miller– I can see this character as being a very fierce and inspiring, empowering presence on social media.

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6. Eloise from Eloise by Kay Thompson– I think that Eloise’s 140 character observations about life in the Plaza would be so much fun!

51rqr9-0jel-_ac_us218_7. Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher– This guy has a job that’s made for social media and sense of humor that’s perfect for it. Who wouldn’t want to follow the only wizard in the Chicago area?

Top Ten Tuesday: Page To Screen Adaptations

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

July 10: Best Books I’ve Read In 2018 (So Far) (This prompt was originally going to be a TTT throwback, but I know how much people love the bi-annual top ten books of the year and I forgot to add it to the list! Feel free to do a throwback instead if you want!)

Since I did a mid-year book post not too long ago, I figured I’d do a throwback this week.  I went with the Top Ten Book To Movie Adaptations.  But since I’m including TV/miniseries I’m just going with “page to screen”.

1. Pride and Prejudice (BBC 1995) I know that the 2005 film has its fans, and it has its good points. But for me, Colin Firth is Darcy. Jennifer Ehle is Elizabeth. That’s just all there is to it. Perfect casting. Beautiful adaptation.

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2. Jane Eyre (BBC 2006) There are several great adaptations of Jane Eyre, but I’ve always been partial to this one because it’s got a spirit of fun to it. Yes, Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens are probably better looking than the Jane and Mr. Rochester described in the book might be,  but they seem to love their characters. I read a review once saying this didn’t add any new colors to the story but it brought all of the existing colors to their full glory (or something along those lines). To me that says it pretty well.

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3. Little Women (1994) I think I saw this film for the first time not too long after I first read the novel. Maybe that’s why these actors seem fused to their characters. Or maybe it’s just really well cast! The film adds some outright feminism and political commentary that doesn’t feel extraneous at all. It also manages the tough plot points well. For example, whenever I watch it, I want to see Jo end up with Professor Bhaer rather than Laurie. And it doesn’t even bother me much when Amy is played by a different actress halfway through.

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4. Anne of Green Gables (1985 miniseries) I’ve seen a few screen Annes (including the most recent “Anne With An ‘E'”) but to me, none of them have approached Megan Follows, who just is Anne to me.  This is another example of something I saw for the first time around the same time that I read the book, which may explain why it’s so definitive for me. I also just really like Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert.

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5. Gone With the Wind (1939) It’s almost impossible to picture Scarlett O’Hara as anyone other than Vivian Leigh. Likewise, it’s hard to picture Rhett Butler not looking like Clark Gable. And yes, occasionally I picture the antebellum American South in something like old Hollywood technicolor, though I’m aware that plantation life was hardly as pretty as the film makes it look. Perhaps its a testament to a good film that I can forget about the ugly reality for a few hours as I watch it, and believe in the fantasy.

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6. Rebecca (1940) This is an example of a film that changes some important plot points from its source material but still works as an adaptation because it maintains the mood and atmosphere of the book. Hitchcock made a wise move refusing to cast Vivian Leigh as the unnamed narrator. The same qualities that made her perfect for Scarlett O’Hara would have made her all wrong for this role. Also, whoever cast Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers really knew what they were doing!

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7. The Age of Innocence (1993) I felt like the narration of this film did it a great service, which is rare, because in many films I find the device overbearing. We see the characters go about their lives, but in the book the weight of social norms and expectations as they did this was tremendous. In the film, we might not even be aware of this if not for the narration that lets us know about it at important points. It could have been done in a clunky way, but it wasn’t. For the most part, it works.

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8. The Princess Bride (1987) This is an example of an adaptation that could have gone all wrong. William Goldman’s novel indulged in tropes that it simultaneously satirized. That’s the kind of thing that is really hard to translate to screen.  It’s done just right. Instead of presenting it as an abridgment of the novel by S. Morgenstern with “commentary” from Goldman, we’re given a frame story of a grandfather reading the book to his sick grandson. It might not have translated at all, but it does.

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9. Matilda (1996) This film relocates the action of Roald Dahl’s tale from the UK to the US. Usually, that’s not a move that I’m a fan of with adaptations. But in this case, it doesn’t hurt the material. Casting wise, Mara Wilson was a lovely Matilda. The character needs to come off as smart and sweet without crossing too far into the precocious and annoying territory. Wilson finds just the right balance. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are just the right amount of loathsome as the Wormwoods.

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10. Bleak House (BBC 2005) I never thought a story about a legal battle over an estate would capture my interest, but Charles Dickens pulled it off in this book. I didn’t think a book with so many plotlines and characters could be done well as a TV miniseries, but this miniseries proved that wrong too. Most of the plotlines do make it into the series, and the ones that were omitted were the right ones. Plus it’s hard to go wrong with a cast that includes Gillian Anderson, Charles Dance, Carey Mulligan, Alun Armstrong, Anna Maxwell Martin and Denis Lawson.

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What do you think? Did I miss any?

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Boyfriends

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 3: Top Ten Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends (Which characters do you have crushes on?)

Ah book boyfriends. They make up the vast majority of boyfriends for me. They’ve broken my heart and put it back together again. There are some notable omissions on here. I didn’t include Heathcliff because his sociopathic tendencies are sort of a turn off for me. I also didn’t include Mr. Rochester because, while I do ship him with Jane the whole “I forgot to tell you I’m already married” thing at the wedding would have been a deal breaker for me (though I’m glad it wasn’t for Jane). There are also a few that appealed to me once but don’t so much any more. And of course a few are sort of embarrassing.

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_1. Peter Pan from Peter Pan by JM Barrie- Yes I was a little kid when this crush ruled. I loved Peter Pan in all his incarnations. Like him, I never saw the appeal of adulthood. He had this whole world for himself, with a tribe of friends around all the time. He had enough danger to keep things exciting, a devoted fairy friend and the ability to fly. What’s not to love as a kid? But even when I was very young I sensed some sadness from him. While the idea of eternal childhood, free of adult supervision appealed to me, I was also somewhat aware that it wasn’t quite right. There comes a time when all kids- even those who can fly, need structure, family and stability. Peter didn’t have that. Even the eternal childhood that I envied had something “off” about it. Because childhood is only one part of life. To stay in it, is to deny the rest of what life has to offer. Children are very future oriented and Peter Pan lived in a perpetual present. Of course this gave him a bit of a tragic element, which only made me love him more.

There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.

511prxozevl-_ac_us218_2. Jeremy Dragon from Here’s to You Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume- Jeremy’s actual last name is Kravtiz but a jacket makes him known as Jeremy Dragon to the title character and her friends. And “Dragon” sort of suits him better. A dragon is a mysterious, dangerous, fantasy. As is the cutest guy in middle school, for Rachel Robinson, a gifted and talented “good girl”. As a result she doesn’t really consider him as a real life option. She does have a crush on an older man however. But when that reveals itself to be a dead end, it turns out that Jeremy is interested in Rachel. I don’t know why this character, and this element of the story resonated with me so much. It was probably a bit of a wish fulfillment fantasy. I saw bits of myself in the goody goody Rachel. So her shock that Jeremy might see her as something other than awkward was similar to my own. I don’t know if that means that the story line was well developed, or just that it did its job in making pre-teen Fran swoon.

“Just when you think life is over, you find out it’s not. Just when you think you’re never going to fall for someone else, it happens without any warning! I hope this doesn’t means I’m… jumping from Obstacle to the next. I don’t think it does. I don’t think it means anything except life is full of surprises and they’re not necessarily bad.”

51kc21bqngl-_ac_us218_3. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne series by LM Montgomery- When Gilbert first meets Anne Shirley in school, he teases her about her red hair, calling her carrots. In return she breaks a slate over his head. Great romances often have rough beginnings! Over the years, Gilbert apologizes and he and Anne become friends. Gilbert wants more, but Anne dreams of a knight in shining armor. It’s not until some later that she comes to realize that her knight in shining armor might just be her kind, supportive friend. And that her romance with him might be better than anything she could have dreamed up! Gilbert sees Anne both as the girl she was and the woman she becomes and he loves both: the awkward and the graceful.

Gilbert stretched himself out on the ferns beside the Bubble and looked approvingly at Anne. If Gilbert had been asked to describe his ideal woman the description would have answered point for point to Anne, even to those seven tiny freckles whose obnoxious presence still continued to vex her soul. Gilbert was as yet little more than a boy; but a boy has his dreams as have others, and in Gilbert’s future there was always a girl with big, limpid gray eyes, and a face as fine and delicate as a flower.

-From Anne of Avonlea (Book 2 of the Anne series)

41rryji1bvl-_ac_us218_4. Romeo Montague from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare was my literary crush when I was about twelve or thirteen. I eventually outgrew this one. But I always felt that those who accused Romeo of being fickle were misreading the text- I still do. Romeo’s initial infatuation with Rosaline isn’t supposed to tell us his love for Juliet isn’t true. Just the opposite. It’s supposed to tell us that this isn’t a boyish infatuation; he’s already had that. When he meets Juliet his language changes significantly, and he begins speaking in elegant poetry. That indicates that love has brought him to greater sophistication. As for love at first sight, no I don’t really believe in it (I do think people can fall in love quickly but perhaps not that quickly!). But I don’t believe in ghosts or witches either and their presence doesn’t keep my from believing the characters in Hamlet or Macbeth! Plus, who wouldn’t want to be the woman who inspires a man to speak like this?

O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.

51xphws9jdl-_ac_us218_5. Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon- A lot of people who list Jamie as a literary crush argue that he’s perfect. I’m including him here because he’s far from it. He’s got flaws, and not just the kind that the writer threw in because someone told her that characters can’t be perfect. His flaws are as much a part of who he is as his strengths, and sometimes they’re one and the same. His stubbornness makes him act like a jerk at times; but it also makes him as devoted as one can possibly be to his loved ones. At times his views of women come off as old fashioned, which is also good: an 18th century hero who talks like he just finished reading Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinham wouldn’t ring true. But whatever he might say and whatever mistakes he makes, he’s still the 18th century guy who saw a crazy lady running around in her underwear, spewing foul language, and skillfully providing healthcare and fell hard.

When the day shall come, that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’—ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

-From The Fiery Cross (Book 5 of the Outlander series)

51omzinvtpl-_ac_us218_6. Alexander Belov Barrington from The Bronze Horseman series by Paullina Simons though I might break up with him after something he pulled in The Summer Garden… I overlook it here only because that whole part of the book seemed very out of character to me. In the first two books (and through most of the third) Alexander is the brave, stubborn, devoted man who brings you ice cream. That’s the dream isn’t it?  Well Alexander has a temper, and sometimes sees things as black and white, when they’re not. But that’s balanced by a strong sense of right and wrong, and a willingness to sometimes do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and vice versa.

“Tatiana…you and I had only one moment…” said Alexander. “A single moment in time, in your time and mine…one instant, when another life could have still been possible.” He kissed her lips. “Do you know what I’m talking about?”
When Tatiana looked up from her ice cream, she saw a soldier staring at her from across the street.
“I know that moment,” whispered Tatiana.”

41gwjpjhljl-_ac_us218_7. Gabriel Oak from Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy- Gabriel Oak is a farmer. He works his land, and he works hard. He’s reliable and has common sense. He proposes to Bathsheba Everdine early in this novel and is refused. He remains her loyal friend throughout. Even when she is acting impulsive or unwise, Gabriel never wavers in his devotion. When Bathsheba eventually realizes what she gave up when she turned down Oak’s proposal, he doesn’t gloat. He doesn’t tell her to get lost. He is simply happy because the woman he loves wants him. The life that he wants with her is simple:

And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you.

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8. Sir Francis Crawford of Lymond from the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett- Though his spot on the list might be temporary. In the first two books he earned his place on here, but I haven’t read the rest of the series yet. He might break my heart. Lymond is  a difficult character to describe because it’s hard to get to know him. He’s handsome. He’s incredibly smart. He speaks a number of languages and is extremely well read. He’s generally good at fighting and intrigues. But we spend most of the books seeing him from other people’s points of view. That makes him intriguing as a literary crush! But as I said, I’m only two books into the series. I might learn something I don’t like!

Considering Lymond, flat now on the bed in wordless communion with the ceiling, Richard spoke. “My dear, you are only a boy. You have all your life still before you.”

On the tortoise-shell bed, his brother did not move. But there was no irony for once in his voice when he answered. “Oh, yes, I know. The popular question is, For what?”

-From Queens Play (Book 2 of the Lymond chronicles)

419ewleob1l-_ac_us218_9. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- the only Austen hero to make my list (I like a few others two but there were reasons they didn’t make it on the list) seems like someone you could potentially be happy with. We get to know him first through his faults; pride (and prejudice!), stuffiness, a tendency to be judgmental. But when we get to know the other side to his personality- loyalty, a fundamental sense of decency, honesty, we get a fuller picture of whole person.

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

51nbhw4ql8l-_ac_us218_10. Carl Brown from Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith- In 1927 Carl and Annie fall in love and get married. Most books would end there, but that’s where this one starts. Carl is a second year law student. Annie left school at the age of 14 to work and support her family. Right away the couple face financial difficulties. Carl’s work and his studies keep him busy. Annie is very intelligent and an avid reader, but isn’t well educated, and feels awkward and a bit uncomfortable in a university setting. Even when he doesn’t always understand where Annie is coming from, Carl always loves her. When things get difficult her doesn’t regret his decision to marry her. He never wavers in the certainty that this is who he is supposed to spend his life with.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Fathers

For The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday

June 13: Father’s Day related Freebiefavorite dads in literature, best father/daughter or son relationships, books to buy your dad, worst dads in literature, etc. etc.

I wouldn’t give up my own father for the best of these guys. But they are pretty amazing. Just a few notes: I didn’t want to include Atticus Finch because he shows up on all of these lists. Also, I found it interesting that so many of these were adoptive rather than biological fathers. In many cases they do far more for their children than the children’s biological fathers ever did. It just goes to prove love makes a parent. Not biology.

  1. Jean Valjean in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo- Early in the novel, ex-con Valjean turns away from a life of crime and tries to live as an honest man. But he only truly learns to love when he adopts the orphaned Cosette. He’s 110% devoted to her.
  2. Silas Marner in the novel of the same name by George Eliot- Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Silas Marner becomes curmudgeon and a miser. One night he finds a two year old girl wandering in the snow and adopts her. Little Eppie changes his life. He becomes more involved in the community, he makes friends and cares for her completely.
  3. Mathew Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables– While his tough as nails sister, Marilla takes a while to warm up to the orphan Anne, Mathew loves her right away. He is the first person in her life to truly show her kindness, and he faces his fears to make her happy.
  4. Daniel LeBlanc in All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr-  Widowed father of a blind daughter, Daniel LeBlanc teaches his daughter, Marie-Laure to be independent by creating a scale model of their Paris neighborhood for her to memorize by touch. He also provides her with novels in Braille. When the Nazis invade Paris Daniel brings Marie to the coastal town of Saint-Malo, where he once again creates a model for her to learn her surroundings.
  5. James Fraser in the Outlander series– Over the course of 8 books (so far) fatherhood isn’t always kind to our hero. Unable to raise his biological children from childhood, Jamie still raises his fair share of kids, from the French pickpocket Fergus, to his nephew Young Ian. But when his biological children do enter his life later on, he proves that parenthood doesn’t end when one’s children are grown.
  6. Frank Gilbraith Sr in Cheapter By the Dozen by Frank B Gilbrath Jr and Ernastine Gilbraith Carey is an efficiency expert and father of twelve. He was rather eccentric, but his children’s book about him recalls a home full of children, laughter, warmth, and love.
  7. Pa Ingalles from the Little House series by Laura Ingalles Wilder is always present.  He had a major case of wanderlust but took his family along with them, giving them a view of life that few people did in the 19th century. He was able to go hunting and built a house but also taught his children to treat others with kindness and care and led by example.
  8. Horton from Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss- When Mayzie the bird lays an egg but can’t be bothered to hatch it, Horton steps in.  In spite  of the absurdity of an elephant sitting on a bird’s egg, Horton refuses to abandon his charge.
  9. Dr. Wilbur Larch from The Cider House Rules by John Irving- Dr. Larch is the founder and director of the orphanage of St. Cloud. He gives all the children in his care his attention and affection, but he loves Homer Wells like a son. Even as Homer grows up and makes his own way in the world, he and Dr. Larch maintain a powerful bond.
  10. Ned Stark in Game of Thrones by George RR Martin- once he left the series I lost a lot of my interest in the story actually. Everything he did was for the safety and well being of his children. No principle had priority above their welfare

And a few of the worst literary fathers on my “dishonorable mention” list:

  • Harry Wormwood in Matilda– Harry is a duplicitous used car salesman, who believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from television. He is initially horrified that his daughter, Matilda, isn’t a boy. His horror is compounded when it becomes clear that she would rather read a book than watch TV. Otherwise doesn’t much care what she does.
  • Jack Torrance in The Shining– From the beginning of this book, Jack isn’t an example of paternal excellence. He’s an alcoholic who has a tendency toward violence when her drinks. But when he gets a job as the winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel, the now sober Jack, moves there with his wife and 5 year old son, Danny. As the ghosts of the Overlook invade his psyche Jack becomes increasingly unstable, until, finally, he ends up chasing his wife and Danny through the hotel with a croquet mallet.  But in his final moments he is able to wrench his mind free from the hotel’s destructive influence encourage Danny to escape. So perhaps, in spite of his many flaws, there was love at the bottom of it all.
  • Franklin in We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver- I spoke about his wife, Eva as a notable, but deeply flawed fictional mother. But Franklin is just as flawed. His sin is denial. He can’t- or won’t- see that his son is anything less than wonderful. When his wife tries to make him see warning signs in Kevin’s behavior he turns a blind eye. He pays for this in a major way.
  • Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- It’s one of my favorite books, but Heathcliff is still a nasty piece of work. He marries for revenge after his true love marries another man. Then he takes his anger and sadness out on his sickly son. Nice.
  • Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- I know he has his fans, and that his wife has her own issues (discussed here) but there is a very serious issue facing his family that he completely disregards. He has five daughters who can’t legally inherit his property. That means that following his death they’ll be without resources. His wife is, understandably, concerned about this, and he mocks her for it. To make it worse, he mocks her in front of his daughters, thereby diminishing their respect for their mother.