Here are some of my favorite books where the characters shine.
1. Emma by Jane Austen. Emma is a wealthy and charming young woman who sees no need to leave her comfortable home with her father. While she has no romantic aspirations at the beginning of the novel, she enjoys playing matchmaker for others. She has a lot to learn about humility, charity and the capacity of her own heart.
I have a special place in my heart for this book because I wrote my senior paper on it. It was called Erring Knights and Distressing Damsels.
2. The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. This book has two of my favorite characters in it: 54 year-old Renee, the curmudgeonly concierge from humble beginnings who has cultivated a tasted for esoteric literature and the arts; and 12 year-old Paloma who despises her privileged family and their snobbery. These two characters become unlikely friends, bonding over discussions about truth, beauty and the meaning of life. They gradually encourage one another to become less prickly. [Read my review.]
3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. This book blesses us with a peek inside an eccentric character’s mind. She lacks social skills, is excessively regimented and keeps to herself. Until she had a chance encounter with a stranger, her life looked like it would continue as it always had, which would have been a shame. Painful and frightening at times, the changes she goes through brings her the human connection that helps her blossom.
4. A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman. Ove is a curmudgeon. He is committed to his long-standing principles, impatient with his neighbors, and blunt in his criticisms. He’s also deeply lonely. When a boisterous family moves in next door, we expect him to explode, but they weasel their way into his heart and he into theirs.
Ove reminded me of my father in some ways. Dad wasn’t nearly as rude as Ove, but he had his quirks–and a big heart to match.
5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. When this spunky orphan arrives at the Cuthberts’ farm on Prince Edward Island, she is heartbroken to learn they had wanted to adopt a boy to help them out with the farmwork. She sets out to win them over, but not by hiding her personality. She’s as large as life.
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I have read it and its sequels many times over. I wanted to be Anne Shirley when I was younger.