After enjoying a book, it’s common to want to read similar ones. They don’t have to necessarily have an almost equivalent plot or include characters who have the same personalities, but it’s appealing when they share a couple of features. Wanting to read comparable books is also a good opportunity to discover ones that are not as renowned. Having three worldwide famous books as a starting point, I have three book recommendations for you. They are not necessarily unknown or obscure, particularly not in the countries that their authors are from. However, they are not as universally celebrated.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante ⇒ Nada by Carmen Laforet
The first book in The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend, is well known and loved by many. It explores the first years of Elena and Lila’s convoluted friendship. They are two underprivileged girls who met at primary school in a problematic neighbourhood in Naples. As we are being presented with their story, we also learn more about the Italian society of the time, since Elena Ferrante explored themes connected with equality, class, social mobility and the role of education.
Other novel that isn’t only character focused, but that also delves into social issues is Nada by Carmen Laforet. The main character is Andrea, a young woman who is trying to lead an independent life in Barcelona, the city she moved to in order to attend university. She struggles to reconcile her family’s poverty with the way of life of her new friends. It is an involving read about female friendship and a broken family.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë ⇒ Amor de Perdição (Love of Perdition) by Camilo Castelo Branco
A classic novel about obsession and revenge, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is an enthralling read partly thanks to its both despicable and believable characters. While he was walking the streets of Liverpool, Mr Earnshaw met the young boy Heathcliff and decided to take him home to live with him and his family. The relationship Heathcliff developed with Mr Earnshaw’s children couldn’t be more different. While Hindley regarded him with contempt, Catherine grew very close to him. His unhealthy fascination with her led him to harbour feelings of vengeance.
The relationship between two people also has negative consequences in the Portuguese classic Amor de Perdição, Love of Perdition in the translation into English. Written in the 19th century, it focuses on the forbidden love between Simão Botelho and Teresa Albuquerque. Their story is used to criticise the social impositions of the time related to how relationships were forged.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy ⇒ Os Maias (The Maias) by Eça de Queirós
In the Russian classic Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, the title character starts an affair with the bachelor Count Vronsky after visiting her brother with the intention of helping him fix his marriage, which is in danger because of his recurrent faithlessness. My favourite relationship in the book is the one between Konstantin Levin and Princess Kitty, though. The misadventures of the characters are complemented by musings on the feudal system, politics, social classes and morality.
Readers who like classics that combine family stories with social analysis may also cherish Os Maias, The Maias in the English translation, by the Portuguese author Eça de Queirós. It focuses on the misfortunes of the Maia family. The relationship between Pedro da Maia and Maria Monforte, which ends in tragedy, influences the education that Afonso da Maia gives to his grandson, Carlos, who later falls in love with Maria Eduarda. Throughout the book, there’s a compelling portrayal of the vices of the higher classes in the 19th century and of the cultural discussions of the time. The ironic tone is exquisite. Although there are many sad events, the novel is also exceptionally funny, in part thanks to my favourite character – João da Ega. He is hilarious and exuberant. He is also a complex character, who is a product of his time. Shocking those around him is one of his pastimes.
Have you read or want to read any of these books? Tell me in the comments!