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5 Unforgettable Characters I have read about! May 6, 2012

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Classics, Mumbo Jumbo, Non Fiction, Sci-Fi.
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Yes, I love reading fiction!. And what makes it awesome are people I meet as I journey through these novels. Breathing life into stories are protagonists woven out of their authors’ imaginations, characters with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. They capture your attention, invite you to live their lives, and amaze you with the surprises they hold!

So this post is dedicated to the 5 most unforgettable characters I have read about.  I guess books you read in your childhood impress you much more, so this list is slightly favoured towards fiction I read long long ago. You would also have a list of favourite characters right ? Let’s see how much my list matches yours!!! 🙂

 

Catherine Earnshaw

Yeah, topping this list is Catherine Earnshaw from “Wuthering Heights” by Emile Bronte. I first read Wuthering Heights when I was thirteen (and I’ve read it over and over again!). It is an amazing story of unfulfilled love, an all-consuming romantic passion, alarming you with the violence of emotions and the scary dark shades of the characters. No wonder, the scenes of the novel struck in my mind forever. The desolate moors, the ghostly visage of Heathcliff and Catherine. If there was one book that made the most vivid impression on me in my childhood, then it was this one. And I can never forget the introduction to Catherine in the movie, where she wails on the window as a ghost, pleading to come in.  And as you read further, her character gets even more unforgettable. My memory of her is still fresh: her cruel yet loving nature, her tempestuous character with a ferocity and depth of passion which will singe you. And the haunting description of Catherine in rage- her hair flying over her shoulders, her eyes flashing.. She has some passion within her that drives the whole story forward, and even after her death, Catherine is an overpowering presence in the events that follow.

Lisbeth Salander

I have obsessed about Salander over and over again after having read The Millenium Trilogy. You can read that here.  What makes her awesome is the combination of brains and brawn with a nasty – “I’m-not-going-to-apologize-for-the-way-I’ve-led-my-life attitude.A self-confessed freak and weirdo, she needn’t  say much to alarm you. The simple – “Keep in mind that I’m crazy, won’t you?” would suffice. She is perhaps the few characters from modern fiction that has impressed me so much (most of my favourites are from age old classics!)

Severus Snape

Can you imagine how life would have been if there were no Harry Potter books to read? I can’t, and no list would be complete if it didn’t have the Potter element in it! So my unforgettable character from this series is Severus Snape. Don’t wince; I know he made your skin crawl – with his crooked nose; greasy hair and twirling black robe as he glides down the corridors at Hogwarts. But I loved his brilliant wit and sarcasm, with ingenious methods to punish students out of favour with him. Remember the first portion making class – “I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death — if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach”!!!. His face offs with Harry potter were le-gen-dary; “What would your head have been doing in Hogsmeade, Potter? Your head is not allowed in Hogsmeade. No part of your body has permission to be in Hogsmeade.”

Yet, beneath the meanness and tragedy, there was a certain grace about his character. The grace with which he went around making Potter’s life miserable ( while saving his life), taking sides with the Death Eaters, getting killed by Voldemort, and finally redeeming himself with his memory. Snape was indeed the most heroic and misunderstood character of J K Rowling’s master creation. His presence made the whole story volatile and interesting, and I have to give him full marks for that!

Howard Roark

Fountainhead was the first Ayn Rand book that I had read, sometime while pursuing graduation. And it sort of zapped me, in some magic spell. Howard Roark was like some weird perfect human being from another planet. Out of the world, he could as well have been an alien from Proxima Centauri!!. And the way Rand crafted her character made him an unforgettable hero in my memory. Not that I am a big fan of the one-sided capitalistic abracadabra that Rand propagated in all her books, yet she made a grand entry and left a gaping impression with Roark. The first scene of Fountainhead completely defines him. Standing at the edge of the cliff, confident in his skin – Howard Roark laughed. Like some sort of God mocking at the trivialities of humankind. Like an insubordinate spirit walking the earth. “High cheekbones over gaunt, hollow cheeks; gray eyes, cold and steady; a contemptuous mouth, shut tight, the mouth of an executioner or a saint.”!!  Howard Roark is the mouthpiece of Ayn Rand philosophies, which actually inspire a cult-like devotion because they are so powerful (Remember the long speech in the last chapter!). And like all impressionable minds awed by her dazzling philosophy, I was also swept away. It took me 3-4 years to real life to be pushed out of the haze of Rand’s Objectivist propaganda!

Hercule Poirot

Oh, how can I forget this one – the English TV series so vividly colours my imagination of him!  Hercule Poirot is the moustache obsessed Belgian detective with an egg shaped head and a sensitive stomach. I loved the way he tapped his forehead beckoning his grey cells  – “This affair must all be unravelled from within. These little grey cells. It is ‘up to them’ — as you say over here”.  And he has style. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, the mystery didn’t  unravel itself by magic in the end. Poirot will throw clues here and there (  master of deception that he is)  keeping you guessing on an entirely different track. And with a flourish,  exclaim “I did not deceive you, mon ami. At most, I permitted you to deceive yourself.” !!

There was a time in my life when I lived off Agatha Christie Novels. There were around 30 in the school library, and I devoured every one of them, by hook or by crook. And it all seemed so real, so striking at that age; the drama and flourish with which he uncovered mysteries, removing his pince-nez glasses for impact. Well, Christie was a ruthless story teller ; she didn’t even  spare her star detective- Poirot was forced to become a murderer himself in “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case”, and was killed off by her  at the end of the novel.

Times have changed. We hardly have the patience to read these long winded Agatha Christie style stories now – I don’t have the patience to read one again myself. But they were wonderful companions at that age when we didn’t have many options, and the school library stocked loads of them!

Ending with a thought : “Imagination and fiction make up more than three-quarters of our real life”. Maybe that’s why these characters keep coming back to me, and that’s what makes them unforgettable!

The Millennium Trilogy Series February 25, 2012

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Book Reviews, Classics.
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What are the 3 most important factors that would entice you to begin reading a 600+ page novel in the midst of a mindlessly packed office schedule?

Hmmmm..You might have your own opinion; my list goes like this:
• The first impression (name, look and feel)
• Personality and characterization of the protagonists
• The eccentric wisdom of the crowds

With these factors lingering in my subliminal consciousness, the Millennium trilogy by Steig Larsson figured at the top of my reading list for this year! This is a series of 3 books with the most riveting titles – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest”. And, as the names suggest, the stories spin around this girl Lisbeth Salander who is the main protagonist of the series.

So, in the 2nd week of Jan, I embarked on mission Millennium. Reading these novels was like a 10 day phase. I used to shuffle to office every morning, worried and wondering what would happen next in the story and come back home longing to dig my hands into the book again. And the author ensured to keep the adrenaline pumping!  The books had the intrigue of an Agatha Christie novel, and the brashness of Sidney Sheldon. And Lisbeth Salander is the Lara Croft of Crime fiction!.

Quite predictably, the moment Salander was introduced, the plot got me hooked. My naïve first impressions had expected her to be a Charlie’s angels sort of diva. But man, that is not even close!

Shockingly different, she is a strong, ruthless yet tragic character. A bizarre anti social anti hero with a crooked smile.. a genius hacker with an eidetic memory.. a fiercely loyal and private weirdo..  You will worry about her, you will want to protect her, but she wont let you feel sorry for her.  Wandering the corridors like a stray cat, brazenly spooky, she sometimes seems more of a wiry character from anime series, than a real person! And the way she rises from the dead ( in the 2nd novel ) is … Well, I don’t have the words to describe it!!..

The other major character in the series in Mikael Blomkvist. A finance journalist, he is dedicated to revealing frauds in banking and business. He is a quite opposite Slander’s fiery personality; their queer relationship is what drives most of the story forward. A man of a somehow mild constitution, the way he is treated by his ladies (IMO, like an intelligent puppy : P ) is quite amusing!

The underlying theme of all the 3 novels is violence against women. The first novel is intriguing.. The second one is nail biting. The last one is a bit long drawn – with the secret service hocus pocus. But the climax is intensely satisfying. The story is touching, thrilling, shocking and scandalous. .. You will experience the most volatile waves of emotions..Love, hate, loyalty, disgust. All in one go. No guns, no hi tech drama.  Just raw emotions.

You might not like the books if you are disturbed by immorality and violence (some scenes might be described as grotesque). But from the point of crime fiction, it’s an awesome series; and the character of Lisbeth Salander is mind-blowing! The most outrageous and flabbergasting heroine I have ever read (or seen), you have no idea what she is going to do next!

What more can I say, this one is indeed a gripping read. A book that will be difficult to forget,  long after you have read it!!..