A Pleasant Club
Time to say goodbye to 2011. I hope it was a good one for all of you and that 2012 is even better – with at least a couple of happy surprises in store.
I think most of us observe certain rituals as we make the transition from one year to the next. One of mine is looking through the list of books I’ve read during the past twelve months and revisiting the places and the people those books have allowed me to know. A recent entry is Alexander McCall Smith’s The Importance of Being Seven. In the introduction, Mr. Smith says that he takes great pleasure in “the knowledge that we are all linked by our friendship with a group of fictional people” and goes on to say: “What a pleasant club of which to be a member!”
I’d never thought of it quite like that, but I believe he’s right. People who love books are linked by the fictional characters with whom we are friends – and it is a pleasant club.
The mention of certain fictional names calls to mind very specific personalities. Compare someone to Tom Sawyer, Scarlett O’Hara or Jo March and you don’t have to say another word. Your listener knows exactly what you mean. Some characters are so closely identified with certain characteristics that their names have become synonyms for them. Think of Scrooge or Pollyanna.
In 2011, I had the pleasure of spending time with some truly memorable characters. Some were old favorites; some were new friends that I hope to get to know better. Maisie Dobbs (an old favorite whom I’ve come to consider a dear friend) escorted me through the years between the two world wars in The Mapping of Love and Death and A Lesson in Secrets. In Fall of Giants, Ken Follett assembled a cast from around the globe to give a human perspective to the pride and deception that led to the first of those terrible conflicts. Chris Cleave’s Little Bee was a heartbreaking portrayal of the plight of a political fugitive and a thought-provoking study of what can happen when courage fails. I had a glimpse into the fascinating world of a Murano glassmaker as I tagged along with Commissario Guido Brunetti in Through a Glass Darkly. I’ll never forget the frustration or the courage of Aibileen, Minnie, and Skeeter in The Help. I could go on, but I’m sure you have your own list, your own favorites.
The gift of an e-reader by a dear friend added another dimension to my reading pleasure in 2011. Thanks to this device, I was able to sample books that aren’t available in paper format. I delighted in the works of some of my writing friends. Two who stand out are closely associated with Birth of a Novel. Sharen Ford’s In September allowed me to spend time with two remarkable (and remarkably well-drawn) characters as I watched Amanda and Rani grow from children in Australia to sophisticated women of the world. In Marielena Zuniga’s Jane, I had the pleasure (and heartbreak) of experiencing the tumultuous adventures of Jane Eyre and her modern counterpart, Jane Elliott. I am so proud to say that I know these formidably talented women, especially since I was present during the birthing process of these novels. Some of my fellow Avalon writers published ebooks that I thoroughly enjoyed: Beate Boeker’s Culinary Catastrophe series introduced me to the delightful Tak, as she tackled impossibly complicated recipes and welcomed a new man into her life. Mona Ingram’s Full Circle took me along as a young woman learned to succeed on her own terms. Always the mystery lover, I had fun figuring out whodunit in K. T. Roberts’s The Last Witness and Mary Ellen Hughes’s Resort to Murder.
Do I have a favorite fictional friend? Not really. Just like my real life friends, I treasure each of them for their unique qualities. I have to admit, though, to a soft spot for three characters: 5-year-old Jack from ROOM; 12-year-old Paloma from The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and, of course, almost-7-year-old Bertie from The Importance of Being Seven. Perhaps because they’re children, I was especially touched by the vulnerability and bravery of these characters and have a special admiration for the delicacy with which their creators brought them to life.
How about you, my fellow members of this pleasant club, do you have a favorite fictional character with whom you spent time in 2011?
Happy New Year – and HappyReading.