Top Ten Character Friends

August is RACING by.  (I guess I say that every month.)  I’ve finished a couple of books over the weekend, but I don’t know when I’ll get to writing proper reviews.  Till then, here’s a quick post for Top Ten Tuesday!

Characters I’d like to be best friends with, classics and otherwise:

  1. Much from BBC’s Robin Hood.  This guy gets a lot of flak from the other members of Robin’s gang (and Robin himself), but it’s not fair… he does pretty much all the cooking and worrying for everyone.  If we’re friends, I’ll help with the cooking (even though I don’t like it) and back him up when they start picking on him.  Being my friend, he will be loyal to a fault, but also give me constructive criticism when I need it.
  2. Miss Marple.  Poor Miss Marple… I just want to protect her from all the creepers and psychos she encounters (not that I am capable, heh).  She really needs a friend.
  3. Lucian Gregory from The Man Who Was Thursday.  Ok, maybe not friends, more like frenemies.  But I feel an anarchist-poet would round out my acquaintanceship very well and make life more exciting.
  4. Tatyana from Eugene Onegin.  She’s a good soul, but she desperately needs someone to help her stand up to her relatives and give some perspective on Onegin and how he’s frankly not worth the heartache of pursuit.  (I guess that’s more of a therapist than a friend, oops…) 
  5. Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis. Not gonna lie, I am TERRIFIED of creepy crawlies of any size, so it would be a real challenge for us to be friends.  However, I can relate to having chronic problems (albeit not of the beetle variety); he could really use a friend to be on his side.
  6. Gandalf the Grey from The Lord of the Rings.  Master of fireworks, fighter of horrid creatures, and an overall grandpa figure.  Who wouldn’t want to be Gandalf’s best friend?
  7. Mary Poppins.  Is basically my role model for being Kind But Extremely Firm.  If we were friends we could commiserate over the nonsense of the world while sipping tea across a floating tea table.  I need this.
  8. Bertie Wooster from the Jeeves and Wooster series.  Speaking of nonsense… We’re probably too much alike to be good for each other.  But we’d have the best times gadding about town and shocking Aunts with our funemployment.
  9. Conseil and Ned Land from Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  Conseil, Professor Aronnax’s servant, is a true nerd like me.  On the other hand, I share Ned Land’s abhorrence of being a prisoner, even on the Nautilus.  I would help them figure out a solid escape plan, while trying to minimize conflict with the Professor (and Nemo).  
  10. Sherlock Holmes.  He’s smart-aleck and also knows martial arts.  Low patience with lesser minds such as myself but literally willing to battle to the death to save our lives.  Also, we’ve been best friends since 4th grade…well, since I was in 4th grade…  As for Holmes, “he never lived, but he never died.” #bf4ever

Top Ten Books of My Childhood

Ok… what follows is rather an eclectic list, and many of them are not classics!  But I so enjoyed reading some of you guys’ lists for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, it made me reflect on the books I read long ago and which influenced my childhood.

1. The Children’s Book of Virtues
An interesting collection of fairy tales and poems, some well known (“St George and the Dragon”) and others more obscure. To this day, I can still hear my dad’s voice reading some of these stories.  I’m also pretty sure I’d start bawling if I re-read “Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together.”

2. Dragons, Ogres, and Wicked Witches
I really hesitate to put this one on the list, because these European fairy tales were pretty heavy reading and perhaps not very good for small kids.  (I’m not quite sure how we acquired the book…Costco?  Either way, my mom later got rid of it.)  I’ve always had an inordinate fascination with fantasy monsters, sea monsters, dinosaurs, you get the idea.  Needless to say, this book, while not a “favorite,” made quite an impression on me, for better or worse.

3. The Boxcar Children
As Stephen mentioned, The Boxcar Children was (is?) a long-running series, to the extent that after the original books by Warner were published, ghost writers picked it up later.  Little me was really obsessed with these books; our library had a lot of them, so I read about four a week and somehow didn’t get tired of them.  It was always exciting to see new ones, too.

4. The Magician’s Nephew
Though I read all the Narnia books, The Magician’s Nephew stands out because it was the first one I’d read, and the themes of temptation vs. self-sacrifice in the storyline really appealed to me.

 5. Trixie Belden
This was a favorite series of my mom’s, and I loved it, too!  The original books are set in the 40s/50s and follow Trixie, who is a teenage girl living in the Hudson Valley, New York.  Unlike Nancy Drew, Trixie comes from a middle-class family of mostly boys, and she struggles with normal girl problems like her plain looks. She finds a “Watson” sidekick in her new neighbor, Honey Wheeler, and together with some other friends, they solve mysteries.  What I especially enjoyed about the series is that it doesn’t dumb-down the mysteries – the bad guys are actually real bad guys, and the crimes are real crimes.  The books also cover some tough topics of the day.

6. The Williamsburg Years (Christian Heritage Series)
The Christian Heritage series was a “series of series” featuring different boys in different eras of American history.  My favorite sub-series was The Williamsburg Years, which was about a kid named Thomas and his friend Caroline growing up in Colonial Virginia.  The books were humorous, dramatic, and surprisingly deep, covering family relationships, politics, and faith.  Caroline’s brother Alexander was one of the first characters I really grew attached to.  Unfortunately the books are long out of print…I’m really hoping they get a reprint someday.

7. Escape from Warsaw (AKA The Silver Sword)
I don’t fully remember what this is about, except that it was a great book.  This one and Twenty and Ten are good examples of how to write a historical book for small children without overwhelming them or making light of the topic.

8. The Caroline Years

The Little House series is a given…but at one point I read the Caroline Years, too, and really enjoyed it.  I can’t remember much about it, though.

9. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
I love both Alice books, but something about the second one just tugs at the heartstrings a bit more.  Alice is a bit older, Looking-Glass World is a bit weirder, and the game is chess.  This also includes some of my most loved characters like the Sheep and the clumsy White Knight.

10. The Sherlock Holmes series
I’m sure it sounds like a broken record at this point, but the Sherlock Holmes series was a milestone in my childhood reading.  🙂

Ten Classics That Should Be Movies

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a page-to-screen freebie.  I’ve talked before about my favorite costume dramas, so I thought I’d go with Jana’s take on this topic and share some books that really need to be adapted!

Also, some of these have been made into films already, so if it’s on the list, it means I haven’t yet seen the “perfect” one (subject to my picky opinion, of course).

10.  The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge

Yonge’s novel may have faded out of popularity (or even recognition), but there are plenty of cinematic moments in this one: feuding family members, a shipwreck, and a haunting graveyard scene. Actually, forget the movie – I have plans to turn this into the next blockbuster musical.  Only half-joking…

9.  The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I can hear critics’ howls of protest…”not ANOTHER Sherlock Holmes movie!”  But hear me out: Jeremy Brett (sadly enough) was not able to play Holmes in all 4 novels and 56 short story adaptations.  No one will ever be Jeremy Brett, but I’m ready for a TV producer to undertake this project, starting over with a new actor.  I present Richard Armitage as my casting choice.  🙂

8. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

The best thing we have at this point is the 2013 Met Opera production (pictured).  I really didn’t care for the 1999 film version with Liv Tyler; she was fine, but the script was plodding and too… British.  I would love to see a Russian production, or maybe a BBC drama with Russian actors.

7. Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Villette has somehow missed out on the recent BBC adaptations list (by “recent”, I mean more recently than 1970).  It’s a shame, because Lucy Snowe is every bit as compelling as Jane Eyre, and the plot is nearly as brooding, with some scenes that would be quite dramatic on screen.  I would prefer an unknown actress, but if not, then Laura Carmichael would do a great job.

6. The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne

AngelsBridgeAndBasilicaDiSanPietroAtNight

By Andreas Tille (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been years since I read it, but The Marble Faun stands out in my memory as being really suited for an adaptation.  It’s an allegory about the Fall of Man, following three young artists who are visiting 19th-century Rome.  The cinematography alone would be stunning!

5. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

I was very disappointed by the 1965 adaptation, which, while more or less following the book and featuring Peter O’Toole, was extremely cringy, not one I’d watch again.  In spite of that, I do think this tale of moral dilemma and consequences would make a good movie, given another chance!

4. Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

As much as I love Lawrence of Arabia, I would love to see a factual adaptation of Seven Pillars, without too many artistic liberties or embellishment.  As for casting, I once read online someone suggesting Matt Smith as T. E. Lawrence.  I’m not sure the resemblance is 100% there, but I can absolutely see him playing all sides of Lawrence’s complicated character.

3. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain

To be fair, I haven’t really watched any Joan of Arc movies yet, in part because none of the existing adaptations look very promising to me.  I would love to see a movie of Twain’s novel, which I read years ago and really liked. 

2. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped is one of my favorite novels of all time, and while I enjoy the 2005 TV movie, it’s not very accurate, more like fan fiction. I hope someday it gets the adaptation it deserves!

1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

As with Sherlock Holmes, I’m still waiting (impatiently) for a complete and accurate rendition of the Alice books.  This brief flashback sequence in the Tim Burton film is the best we’ve got for now.

What about you – what’s on your book adaptation wishlist?

Top Ten Literary Couples

In honor of the day before Singles Awareness Day Valentine’s Day, here’s my favorite romantic relationships from literature (in no particular order):

Tatyana and Eugene from Eugene Onegin

Tatyana is a bookish country girl who writes a love letter to Eugene, a worldly and cynical city boy.  Everything falls apart from there…  The complex story and character building make it my very favorite romantic novel, and I absolutely love the Met Opera’s 2014 production (due soon for a rewatch).

Arthur and Amy from Little Dorrit
Little Dorrit is like a Cinderella story where the prince is also in trouble.  In the 2008 miniseries, Matthew Macfadyen and Claire Foy brought these two characters to life, and I still can’t watch this without major feels for them. 

Percy and Marguerite from The Scarlet Pimpernel
Breakups and adulteries tend to take center stage in literature, so I especially love a good story about a saved marriage.  A bit of swashbuckling doesn’t hurt, either.

Natasha and Myshkin from The Idiot
In the eyes of elite society, Natasha is “damaged goods” because of sexual abuse she suffered as a child.  Myshkin understands her and vows to always love and respect her.  It’s my favorite proposal scene of all time.

Nastenka and the Narrator from White Nights
The ultimate story of unrequited love between two strangers.  It’s the stuff of Hollywood…but somehow, Dostoyevsky makes it work.

May your sky always be clear, may your dear smile always be bright and happy, and may you be for ever blessed for that moment of bliss and happiness which you gave to another lonely and grateful heart. Isn’t such a moment sufficient for the whole of one’s life? 

Mina and Jonathan from Dracula
Two intelligent characters who stay true to each other through the worst of experiences.  Literature needs more couples like them!

Phileas and Aouda from Around the World in Eighty Days
Verne isn’t known for romance, but I always liked these two.

Well, friends, not being too romantic myself, I did my best and could only come up with seven.  Any favorites from this list (or ones I missed)?

Top Ten Classic Friendships

Haven’t participated in Top Ten Tuesday in a while, but I’m excited for this week’s topic: top ten platonic relationships from books.  Families, friends, and mentors – classic literature is chock-full of great examples!

  1. Davey Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart from Kidnapped (Robert Louis Stevenson) – I have to reread this book every so often.  I just love the complex dynamic between two friends who have such different backgrounds, views, and goals.
  2. Gandalf and Pippin from The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien) – Another duo who don’t get along too well at the beginning – Gandalf, the no-nonsense wizard, and Pippin, who is just a bit clueless.  Nonetheless, when push comes to shove, they’re on each other’s side and find common understanding.
  3. Mudpuddle, Jill, and Eustace from The Silver Chair (C. S. Lewis) – Probably my favorite group of characters from the whole Narnia series!  I admir how they’re all three loyal to each other and their quest.  Maybe less realistic than some of the other Narnia portrayals (e.g. Digory and Polly, whom I also love), but still great.
  4. Dorothy and Scarecrow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum) – Childhood favorite.
  5. Holmes and Watson from the Sherlock Holmes series (A. C. Doyle) – One of the most unlikely friendships in literature, and also long-lasting!
  6. Onegin and Lensky from Eugene Onegin (Alexander Pushkin) There’s a lot you can learn from the rise and fall of this friendship.  Even so, I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand what happened.
  7. Jo, Beth, Meg, and Amy from Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) – Enough said.  🙂 
  8. Orual and Psyche from Till We Have Faces (C. S. Lewis) – Another great portrayal of sisters. 
  9. Jim Hawkins and Dr. Livesey from Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson) – More of a father-son relationship, this friendship is tested by events and other characters in a really interesting way.
  10. Pip and Joe from Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) – In some ways this is a father-son relationship “gone wrong,” but at the same time, it’s incredibly compelling and realistic.  Quite a tearjerker.

Well, that’s my ten.  Who did I miss?!