Category Archives: Famous characters from books

An unlikely love story

She – Mary Horton – a 43 year old straight-laced spinster with two houses but no space for love or friendship.

He – Tim Melville – a 25 year old young man with Greek God looks and the brain of a child.

Tim by Colleen McCullough has to be one of the most unlikely love-stories. In this debut novel McCullough crafts her characters with meticulous care and so much love that you cannot but be moved.

tim

Writing about a character such as Tim is a challenging task because you have so much to say you don’t know where to start. You desperately want your readers to feel about him just as you do and you struggle to find words to say it all and worry, wondering if you will ever do it justice.

I am going to try, though.

Mary spots Tim first at her neighbour’s house where he’s part of a construction crew and is entranced by his stunning looks. Later, she calls him over to help her with her garden and then at her beach house. Thus starts a relationship that has friendship, affection and love put together in an inextricable, heartwarming mix.

For a casual observer there is nothing right with the relationship. The two are no match in physical appearance, mental capabilities, financial or social status. They bond on a purely emotional level.

When I started out reading the book, to me Mary seemed the sole ‘giver’ in the relationship. What could a mentally challenged boy offer a self-made, confident, affluent, educated woman? The only thing missing in her life, perhaps to an outsider, would be the love of family and friends but not to Mary. She fills her life with work, an extensive personal library of good books and good music. Mary Horton is satisfied, even pleased, with the way she has built her life.

Then along comes Tim. His heart winning innocence makes you love him and want to take care of him. He worms his way into Mary’s heart picking away at her defenses, setting her at ease, urging her to loosen up and awakening her dead heart without even being aware of it. He brings colour to her home as to her life. Her feelings for him change from pity to protectiveness to love.

He becomes an integral part of her life as she becomes his.

A word about Tim – he has been brought up to successfully handle his day-to-day life. He can travel on the bus on his own and earn his living as a construction worker. He is aware that he isn’t the ‘full-quid’, as he puts it. He has a naturally sunny disposition and the only thing that upsets him is when he cannot understand a joke or a remark – the feeling of being shut out because of his impaired brain. With Mary he never feels that.

In the end I think this was as equal a relationship as it can get. When Mary’s boss who’s the closest thing she has for a friend, suggests she marry him her response is, “How can I possibly marry a mentally retarded boy young enough to be my son? It’s criminal… I’m a sour, ugly old maid, no fit partner for Tim.” She doesn’t mince her words or spare her feelings.

His reply puts their relationship in perspective:

“…. I defy anyone to explain what one person sees in another…. Whatever you think you are, Tim thinks you are something quite different and much more desirable. You said you didn’t know what on earth he saw in you, that whatever it was you couldn’t see it yourself. Be grateful for that!”

Those were my absolute favourite lines.

Nope, this isn’t a story of romantic love but it most definitely is a love-story. To find someone to love you more than you do yourself – if that’s not love, what is?

PS: The book was made into a film starring Mel Gibson and Piper Laurie. I remember watching bits of it long ago and didn’t quite like it because the Tim I’d made up in my mind was way more handsome and younger too.

PPS: Read the book also for a host of wonderfully etched supporting characters and beautiful descriptions of Australia.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday. Do drop by and take a look at what others have come up with the letter T.

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When the Help need help

You’ve read ‘Gone With the Wind’? That’s rhetorical, right? You have. So you must remember the wonderful relationship between Scarlett O hara and Mammy. Mammy is the loveable help – the one who dresses Scarlett, pulls her up for each tiny breach of etiquette and is always at hand to keep her dignity intact.

Did you ever wonder if Mammy had a life outside of Tara and the O hara’s? Yeah, nor did I. Mammy is smart and responsible and funny and yet her whole life revolves around Scarlett and her family. There is barely any ‘Mammy’ in Mammy.

Here’s a book that explores all of that, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It tells the story of ‘Black maids who raised white children’ in Jackson Mississippi of the 60s. At the heart of the book is Skeeter or Eugene Phelan. All though she belongs to the ‘other side’ of the divide, it falls to her to tell the stories of these women.

skeeter

Skeeter’s story

Skeeter is an aspiring journalist. Fresh back from college she finds her maid of many years Constantine, has quit and gone. The absence bothers Skeeter even as she busies herself sending across job applications. She is offered work at the local paper. “Miss Myrna’s weekly cleaning advice column”, the job on offer, is a far cry from her dream but it’s a start and Skeeter is proud to be working.

Being a rich white man’s daughter, she hasn’t ever done any cleaning in all her life nor does she intend to learn. So she seeks advice from her friend’s maid Aibileen, offering to split her salary. During the conversation Aibileen mentions that Constantine had been fired (not quit as Skeeter was given to believe) and that starts off Skeeter on a journey into the lives of these women.

A book is born. A book with stories from maids, stories so real they seem unreal. It isn’t easy. First, it has to be kept a secret. Then the maids have to be convinced to open their hearts to Skeeter. However, once they do stories come spilling out including Constantine’s tale and a family secret too. The privileged Skeeter becomes the voice of the exploited maids.

Why I love her

Skeeter is a journalist and a reader. She follows her heart. I love that about her. Check out this quote from her:

“I always order the banned books from a black market dealer in California, figuring if the State of Mississippi banned them, they must be good.”

She certainly isn’t a follower of rules.

When Skeeter writes to an editor for a job she receives a reply, a line of which reads:

“Write about what disturbs you particularly if it bothers no one else.”

A perfect brief for a budding writer. Skeeter goes out and does just that. She’s a rare person with strong sense of justice and an even stronger sense of empathy. Few have the courage to stand up against people they love – friends and family – specially when it doesn’t affect them. It becomes even more difficult when sticking out their neck might lead to the worst kind of ostracism. Hilly and Elizabeth are Skeeter’s childhood friends and yet Hilly turns out to be the main antagonist.

Oh and in case you were wondering – this is not a sad soppy tale of exploited overworked women. This is a story of brave women told with a lot of spirit and barely a dull moment.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday .  The letter of the week is ‘S’.

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R is for Reginald Jeeves

How many characters, even real ones, have the singular honour of having a search engine named after them? His name appears in the Oxford English Dictionary as a generic word for a valet/butler. Yeah, I know you’ve got it. Not much of a guess, is it? There really is just one Reginald Jeeves – but he’d much rather you just call him Jeeves.

He is the supercilious uber valet, (but he can also buttle with the best)  to the rather bird brained Bertie Wooster – both creations of the British humourist PG Wodehouse.

Where he came from

The character is based on a real life butler Eugene Robinson who actually helped Wodehouse out of trouble, once. Wodehouse employed him for research purposes. Most of you might know the name came from that of a popular Warwickshire cricketer Percy Jeeves. He and Wooster made their first proper appearance in 1916 in The Artistic Career of Corky.

Did you know?house-pictures-hugh-laurie-jeeves

  1. Jeeves’s first name was not revealed for 56 years till the penultimate novel in the series, Much Obliged, Jeeves. Bertie was apparently stunned to realize that Jeeves actually had a first name at all! But then that’s just so Bertie.
  2. Jeeves is a fish eater, which is what makes him so brainy, or so he says.
  3. Jeeves started off working at a girls’ school. He worked for over a dozen others before he and Wooster found each other.
  4. He has three aunts and an uncle and also a niece Mabel.
  5. He quotes from authors and poets like Shakespeare and Dostoevsky. He’s not above showing off his Latin too.

I love him because

– Of his oh-so-propah British ways

– He knows everything, everything. He cooks, cleans, sews, irons, mixes cocktails, makes the best antidote to hangover And he also knows all about horses, cars and women. He is bloody darned perfect at his job.

– He’s impeccably dressed, always!

– He is always in control and never forgets his manners. I mean never.

– He has a solution to the trickiest problem from avoiding an aunt to nipping a love-affair.

– He is a man of unshakeable principles. He once quit Bertie’s employment because Bertie wouldn’t give up playing the banjolele (an instrument which is a mixture of a banjo and a ukulele).

I wish he were mine.

(I do wonder if he would have survived in a household with a chaotic pair of twins. Just wondering…..)

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday the weekly alphabetical challenge where I get to reminisce about my favourite characters from books. Do drop by and take a look at what others have come up with for the letter R.

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The two Quasimodos

Two stories, two characters, two time periods – over a hundred years apart – a shared name – Quasimodo. Since they’re both quirky as can be here goes a two-in-one post for both these uglier than ugly creatures.

If you’re a lover of classics you’ll know the first one – Hugo’s Hunchback from his sad sad book Hunchback of Notre Dame. He’s the hunchbacked, deaf bell-ringer, half blinded by an ugly wart. So hideous is he, even as a newborn, that he is switched at birth with a little girl and abandoned by his parents. So starved is he for love that a single act of kindness by that same girl makes him fall in love with her. Thus starts a love story – one-sided, ill-fated and doomed. The lovely kind-hearted Esmerelda continues to be repulsed by Quasimodo’s ugliness even after he saves her life. He however never stops loving her. When she is executed he lies down beside her and starves to death holding onto her body.

One of my favourite quotes from the book

One of my favourite quotes from the book

Quasimodo’s story is heart wrenching.

On a related note there’s this dialogue from the film ‘The truth about cats and dogs’ (Which, by the way is a wonderful film) that says: You know how someone’s appearance can change the longer you know them? How a really attractive person, if you don’t like them, can become more and more ugly; whereas someone you might not have even have noticed… that you wouldn’t look at more than once, if you love them, can become the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. All you want to do is be near them.

I wholeheartedly agree with this idea. Quasimodo’s plight always made me wonder if physical appearances can be so overpoweringly offensive as to hide all other qualities of a person. Is that possible? Try as I might, the romantic in me, cannot think well of Esmerelda. But then maybe that’s  idealistic, maybe physical appearances do stop you from looking deeper. Maybe.

Onto Quasimodo No 2. He (or rather she) is as different from his namesake as possible. He makes an appearance in one of my all-time favourite books Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. Forgive me if I’m partial to this one – but he really is most endearing. He is named after the original Quasimodo for his amazingly ugly looks. He’s a pigeon – an obese pigeon – but he’s convinced he’s a human, if that counts for anything. Since he’s ‘human’, obviously he cannot fly. He walks. So when, Gerry, the ten-year old whose pet he is, goes for a walk, Quasimodo walks along. He can of course be carried on the shoulder (like a baby) but then there’s always the danger of an ‘accident’. Nobody thought of pigeon diapers, obviously.

Of course he would sleep in the house rather than the pigeon loft and listen to music along with the family. He turned out to be quite a music connoisseur. He learnt to recognise the waltz and the military march, which is more than we can say for a lot of men. He even choreographed and executed with much brilliance, different dance routines for the two.

Then one day to Gerry’s utter shock Quasimodo laid an egg! An egg for goodness sake. ‘He’ was a ‘she’ … a girl.. a woman.. a mum … whatever!! And he/she was spotted sitting on a tree making eyes at a very very macho pigeon.

At least this Quasimodo had a happy ending to her love story.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday the weekly alphabetical challenge where I get to reminisce about my favourite characters from books. Do drop by and take a look at what others have come up with for the letter Q.

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The ghost who walks

Phantom

The Phantom in action with his horse Hero and his wolf Devil.

Remember Phantom, anyone? The great daddy of all superheros? If you’ve grown up in the India of the 80s you certainly would have encountered him in the pages of The Illustrated Weekly or the daily newspaper. You would know him as Vetaal in Hindi. Wiki tells me that at the peak of its popularity, the strip was read by over 100 million people each day.

How he was made

If you’ve joined the human race later and are unaware of this great mystery man, he was fighting evil way before Spiderman, FYI. He was born in 1936 and the strip is still going on in 2015. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? He was created by Lee Falk (who also created Mandrake the Magician). Phantom survived his creator’s death (in 1999) and is now produced by new writers and artists. I for one will always associate Phantom with Lee Falk.

Five Phantom facts

  1. When young sailor Christopher Walker’s father is killed by pirates he takes a vow on his father’s skull to rid the world of crime. And that’s how Phantom was born.
  2. He is believed to be immortal. The baton of superheroism passes from father to son so seamlessly that people never get to know when the old phantom is gone and the new one has taken his place. The current phantom is the 21st Phantom.
  3. Falk said his skin-tight costume was inspired by Robin Hoods green tights.
  4. He lives in a Skull Cave in Africa in a fictional country called Bangalla. He has many other houses including a tree house, an Isle of Eden and a castle.

phantom skull cave

phantom ring

5. Oh and this I must tell you – he wears two rings and leaves their mark – a skull (from the ring he wears on his right hand) for the bad people and the four sabres mark (from the ring on his left hand) on the good people who remain in his protection. Another bit of trivia – the Skull ring is supposed to be made from the nail that hung Jesus to the cross.

Five reasons why I love him

  1. The obvious one first – He’s a superhero – brave and indestructible, stranding up for the weak and fighting the bad people. What’s not to like?
  2. He’s romantically tantalizingly mysterious. You never get to see him really properly. He hides behind that hideous purple mask (Why Purple????). All you get are rare glimpses of half a profile or his back. And in your imagination you make him perhaps much more handsome than any man can ever be.
  3. He is real. Well as real as a superhero can get. He has no special powers. No spider senses tell him of brewing trouble. He gets and gives news through the Jungle patrol – tribal drummers. His best assets are his own strength and the undying loyalty of Devil and Hero.
  4. He has a love story too. He falls in love with Diana Palmer who he met during his college days. He later goes on to marry her.
  5. He’s a family man!! Yeah he has a wife Diana Palmer and twins (Yess!!) Kit and Heloise. A superhero dad – how adorable!

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday the fun weekly alphabetical challenge where I’m picking up a character each week to talk about.

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Rendezvous with Obelix

On Beat About the Book (BAB) blog today we have an interview with the most famous sidekick of all time – Obelix – the mustachioed, pigtailed loveable Gaul, best friend of Asterix. You may already know that when he was a baby he fell into a cauldron of magic potion giving him superhuman strength. That potion seems to have also endowed him with a klutzy endearing innocence. We bet you didn’t know that a survey of adolescent girls voted him the ‘sexiest’ Gaul of all time.

We have a breakfast appointment with him this morning and we find him chomping his way through a whole wild boar, a growing pile of licked-clean bones by his side.

Quintessential Obelix

Quintessential Obelix

BAB: Good morning Mr Obelix.
Obelix: Mornin’.

BAB: Would it be much trouble for you to put down that boar for a bit?
Obelix(Glaring): Don’t you come between the boar and me! Fire away. What is this about?

Obelix at breakfast

Obelix at breakfast

BAB: Well you agreed to be a guest on the blog here, remember? We need you to answer a few questions.
Obelix: Ask Asterix. He’s the talker, the one with brains.

BAB: And you? You’re the one with brawn?
Obelix: (Flexing his muscles) Yeah right.

BAB: You’ve been known to break down doors when you knock at them. Once you gave Asterix amnesia when you hit him on the head. Is it hard remembering that you’re this strong? Does it feel strange being so Big and Fa… err Strong. Doesn’t…
Obelix: WHAT??? Were you going to say Fat? Who’s Fat? WHO. IS. FAT. HERE?

BAB: Strong.. I said strong. And brave – the strong and brave Roman basher.
Obelix: (Calming down right away, a beatific smile lighting up his face) Ah yes the Romans! I love ’em… though they’re not too good at our fight-game. Keep losing. Need more practice, I figure. Once I had this nightmare they were leaving. Imagine that! What life that would be, with no Romans to clobber! I’d likely die of boredom. Some folks believe they invaded us. Heck it was we who dragged ’em here for a bit of sport.

Obelix the brave.

Obelix the brave.

BAB: So what do you do for a living?
Obelix: You still need to ask? You slow or what? I beat up Romans Duh! And (thrusting a chunk of meat in our face) I hunt and eat wild boar for living and oh I make and trade menhirs.

Obelix at work on a menhir.

Obelix at work on a menhir.

BAB: Menhirs? What do people do with them?
Obelix: Buy ’em of course! Maan, you’re slow.

BAB: I meant what do they do with them after they buy them?
Obelix: Whatever they please. I sell ’em, what people do with ’em after that ain’t much o’ my business.

BAB: Mr Obelix we’ve heard you’re quite the ladies man. You seem to fall in love quite often.
Obelix: (Blushing) Well I’m a ‘motional kinda man and the girls move my heart. I’m quite a hit with ‘em too. That Panacea’s a beaut and also Mrs Geritrix. Her husband though is another story – crusty old blah.

BAB: What according to you is a perfect life?
Obelix: Boars to hunt, a bunch of Romans to play with, Asterix and Dogmatix by my side and life is perfect.

Linking up to ABC Wednesday the fun alphabetical meme. We’re at the letter O.

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Napoleon the Pig

On the blog today, I have Napoleon. Did you know that in France it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon? And yet it’s Napoleon the Pig that I have here – the cunning, plotting, power-hungry protagonist from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Napoleon the Pig

Napoleon the Pig

The book is one of the finest satires ever written. It is amazing how much power a great author can pack into a tiny book. This one comprises just 127 pages. The Indian edition is priced around Rs 70/- (a little over a dollar) and comes with an enlightening introduction explaining the characters. Buy it, I say, if you don’t have a copy, for this is another one of those read and re-read books.

The tale is about a bunch of farm animals who, inspired by Old Major – a pig, rebel against, and oust their owner. They then take over the running of the farm dreaming of a society where all animals work together to the best of each of their capacity and share the fruits of their toil equally.

The pigs are the most intelligent of the animals. The rebellion is led by two of them – Snowball and Napoleon. They teach themselves to read and formulate seven commandments:

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
Most other animals are too stupid to learn to read but do pick up the basic commandment.
They adopt the motto ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’.

Even as the animals are revelling in their victory Napoleon puts his plan in motion. He begins with appropriating the milk from the cows exclusively for the pigs. His trusted deputy Squealer convinces the other animals that this is for their own good – pigs need the milk since they are the brains behind the operation and have the hardest task of planning. Napoleon hides away some new-born pups. He trains them secretly and they grow up into vicious dogs who follow no one’s orders but his. He then gets rid of Snowball who might have challenged his power.

By the end of the book the pigs are living in the human’s house, wearing their clothes, sleeping in their beds, getting the other animals to work for them and even brandishing whips as they walk on two feet. Slowly, secretly the commandments have been modified to just a single on:

The final commandment

The final commandment

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal that others.

And the anthem changes to Four legs good two legs better. Their transformation back into ‘tyrannical’ humans is complete.

By his own confession Orwell modelled Napoleon on Stalin. Most other characters, though a bit of a generalisation, do find parallels. Old Major could be Karl Marx (the one who comes up with the theory of Equality) Snowball was Trotsky (Stalin’s bete noire), Squealer (the Russian media, specially the paper Pravda that justified each of Stalin’s moves) and so on.

Orwell’s Napoleon is a classic example of how power corrupts. He works at multiple levels to get his way and crown himself the leader.

– He is a meticulous cunning planner.
– He makes rules and changes them each time they stop serving his purpose.
– He doesn’t offer explanations to the animals directly, letting Squealer do the convincing.
– He uses force to intimidate those who Squealer cannot convince.
– He is ruthless and doesn’t shy from massacring to drown out dissent.
– He loves power and will do anything to hold onto it.

Unlike some of his other books (I found 1984, very depressing) this one is an easy and very interesting read. And with its satirical background it becomes brilliant.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday the fun challenge that pushes me to write at least one post each week. Sending out thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up the challenge.

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Six lessons modern-day parents can learn from Marmee

Picking up Little Women for a re-read meant a nostalgia trip. This book by Louisa Alcott, written over a hundred years ago has been a part of my growing up years. Way back in school we devoured the entire series. All my friends found at least one sister she completely identified with. Each girl is a protagonist in her own right, at least in the first book.

As I browsed through the book again, looking for a passage to share at my book club, the character that really struck me for its quiet strength was Marmee. I wondered how I hadn’t really noticed her earlier. I took her for granted, I suppose – just like we take mums for granted in real life.

Susan Sarandon as Marmee

Susan Sarandon as Marmee

I didn’t even know her real name. It is Margaret March, same as Meg’s. Other than that Alcott gives us very little background on her. I did read, though that she modelled her on her own mother Abigail Alcott – a writer and a social activist.

Here are some lessons modern-day parents can pick from this super-mum

  1. Break the mould: Marmee didn’t believe in pushing her kids to fit into predefined societal roles. Whether it was Meg and her fancy friends or Amy’s school pals, Marmee encouraged the girls to hold their own. When school becomes a chore for the painfully shy Beth she allows her to be home-schooled.
  2. No comparisons: She gave her daughters the freedom to be themselves. With four such different children comparisons would be inevitable. Not for Marmee. She appreciates each of her daughter for her individual qualities.
  3. Live your lesson: Marmee teaches by doing. The classic example is when she confesses to Jo about having a bad temper. “I’ve been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I have learned not to show it; and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
  4. Back to the basics: Marmee’s life is guided by basic principles of piety, simplicity, honesty, hard-work and thrift. We often forget to reinforce them to the children  though her values stand the test of time.
  5. Money isn’t happiness: Though they are poor Marmee doesn’t push her daughters to marry for money and yet she isn’t biased against the wealthy Laurie. Here’s a woman to whom money truly  didn’t make a difference.
  6. Beyond vanities: She encouraged her daughters to look beyond external vanities. She brings a beautiful balance in her upbringing. Though she doesn’t forbid her daughters from dressing up or going to parties she does stress that they should be more than just that.

Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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Leisel Meminger – The Book Thief

Leisel Meminger has had to wait too long to be written about as I’m lagging way behind with my post. You know her don’t you? From Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief? She’s the nine-year old German girl given up to foster parents since her own were Communists – a dangerous thing to be during WWII. She’s the one with brown eyes in times when blue was the safer colour. But she was safe – at least she was German.

Leisel Meminger

Leisel Meminger

What’s more, she knew how to keep a secret – an essential trait for a thief. This was a skill she would need later, to save a friend’s life. But first, I have to tell you about her stealing adventures. She stole her first book ‘The Gravedigger’s Handbook’ from the site where her 6-year-old brother was buried. They were meant to be together at their foster parents’ house but death claimed him first and then stayed on with Leisel to tell her story.

Through her life she manages to steal just six books but that was enough in times when owning one might have been a crime (apart from Mein Kampf) and when bonfires were fed by books. That’s where she rescues her second one from. She hides away the still-smouldering book in her jacket and almost sets herself on fire.

book thief

Helped on by her new dad, Leisel learns to recognise the power of words and falls in love with them. One day a new friend comes to live with them and shows her how words could be a double edged sword. Wasn’t it words that the Fuhrer had used to create a world so horrific it didn’t deem half its people fit to live? This new friend is a Jew. She needs to keep her mouth shut about him. His life depends on it. And she does. Didn’t I say she could keep a secret? Her foster dad wasn’t as good at it, though. The day he extended a bit of bread to a starving Jew he knew he’d made a mistake. He knew the Fuhrer’s men would come looking and find the friend hidden away in their basement. They had to let him go, to Leisel’s heartbreak.

Through it all she manages to learn to read, play football, steal some apples and make a name for herself as a don’t-mess-with me girl with strong fists.

Leisel is an unusual girl for her fierce loyalty, her sense of right and wrong, her knack for making unusual friends and above all for her love for books. This is the love that prompts her to scribble words on the walls of her basement, that helps her calm down frightened people in bomb shelters, that gives her the means to provide consolation to old women who had lost young sons to the war. In the end it also proves to be the love that saves her life, even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to be saved.

Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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Katniss Everdeen – the Girl on Fire

We often enjoy books we can identify with – books that make us go ‘Ah I know a person like that’ or ‘Oh this could happen to me’.

But then there are also another kind of books – books where the author crafts a whole different world. And she transports you right there till you feel completely part of that world and are living with the characters. Classic examples would be George Orwell’s 1984 or the more recent Harry Potter series.

Today’s protagonist comes from one such world – Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The book published relatively recently (in 2008) is a first of a Trilogy, and as is often the case with trilogies, is the most gripping.

The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion

Katniss in warrior mode with her bow and arrows.

Collins creates a dystopian nation, Panem with 12 districts governed by the city called Capitol. Long ago the districts had rebelled against the Capitol and were defeated. To remind them of the Capitol’s supremacy, each year a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 is chosen from each district. Called Tributes, they have to compete in the Hunger Games. Each one has to try to kill the others or get killed trying till there is a single survivor. The event is televised and watched like a reality show.

The story is told in first person by Katniss, from District 12. When her sister’s name is picked for the Games, she volunteers to go in her stead.

Katniss stands out as the perfect protagonist. She’s strong and brave and proud. She is a fighter against all odds. At 11 years she takes on the job of the breadwinner for her family of three, when her father dies and her mum goes into depression.

Katniss the heartless provider

All of Katniss’ actions are guided by a strong sense of responsibility towards her family. On the surface she seems practical and emotionless to the point of being callous. She hunts for her family without emotion or compassion. She tries to drown their cat who she looks on as just ‘another mouth to feed’. She doesn’t want to have children because she thinks of them simply as more mouths to feed.
When she’s leaving for the games she shows little emotion. All she talks about are practical things that will equip her mum and sister for their day-to-day survival in her absence.

… and yet love is what guides her

She volunteers for her sister – a pure act of love. It is love that makes her stay with her mother and sister rather than running away. It is love that prompts her to not bring children into a world of starvation and it is love that makes her try to drown the cat rather than see her starving to death.
“if we have to choose between dying of hunger and a bullet in the head, the bullet would be much quicker”, she says.

When faced with kindness she reacts with anger and suspicion yet she strikes up a friendship with some of the tributes. She tries to block them as she is aware that she might have to kill them. Yet she bonds with them.

I like that her better feelings always win in the end. The final act of rebellion against the powers of the Capitol, is the perfect ending to the book. If I have piqued your interest enough – go read it, if you haven’t already, and tell me what you thought of Katniss Everdeen.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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