Favourite Female Characters II

Almost six years ago, I wrote a post about my favourite female characters to celebrate International Women’s Day. Since then, I read various other books whose female characters I found as interesting as the ones I mentioned previously (or in some cases even more). Some of them shine because of their compelling personalities. Others may not have an immediately fascinating temperament, but they stand out thanks to their authenticity. Well-crafted characters can be captivating regardless of their traits.

The seven characters mentioned bellow are part of books from various genres, from fantasy to literary and historical fiction. Some I spent a long time with, as they are featured in series, others just a few days. They all have one thing in common, though. They lingered on in my mind. It is also not surprising that three of the characters were created by Daphne du Maurier, since her talent is well known.

 

Althea Vestrit – The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The younger daughter of Ephron Vestrit, Althea is one of the main characters in Ship of Magic, The Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny, the three books in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by the fantasy writer Robin Hobb. Her family has a liveship called Vivacia and her biggest dream is to be her captain one day. She is wilful and feels restricted by the sexist society she lives in. Although she occasionally makes rash decisions, she reflects on her mistakes. She has her own desires, but can adapt them as the situation around her changes. What she experiences throughout the series is deeply affecting. Continue reading

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First Books to Read by My Favourite Authors

The first book we choose to read by some authors may end up having a significant impact on whether we decide to continue to explore their work or not. When someone asks us to recommend a first book to read by one of our favourite writers, we surely want to mention one that will make that person want to continue to read their books. Which should we recommend? The first one we read? Our favourite? Or some other? I tried to answer these questions regarding my current favourite authors: Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, José Saramago, Eça de Queirós, Jessie Burton and Margaret Atwood.

 

Daphne du Maurier: Jamaica Inn

When we fall head over heels in love with the first book we read by an author, it’s difficult not to keep comparing our subsequent reads by them to it. That’s what happened to me with Daphne du Maurier and the magnificent Rebecca. For that reason, if you still haven’t started exploring Du Maurier’s work, I recommend starting with Jamaica Inn instead. It’s a great novel that will make you want to continue reading her books, while still having her best book (in my opinion) to look forward to.

Jamaica Inn is atmospheric and mysterious. After the death of her mother, the main character, Mary Yellan, went to live with her aunt Patience, who was married to Joss Merlyn. He was the new landlord of Jamaica Inn. Mary soon realised that her uncle was involved in some kind of criminal activity. Throughout the book, there are various instances which shine thanks to a tangible sense of menace. The believable characters and realistic dialogues make the book captivating. Continue reading

Favourite Books by Daphne du Maurier

The time has finally come to enjoy another Daphne du Maurier Reading Week, hosted by Ali. As I still haven’t managed to start reading my choice for this year, The Flight of the Falcon, nothing better than to share with you my favourite books by Daphne du Maurier. So far, I’ve read a total of nine books, including seven novels and two short story collections. They are: Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, The King’s General, Jamaica Inn, The House on the Strand, The Birds and Other Stories, The Scapegoat, Frenchman’s Creek and Don’t Look Now: Short Stories.

Are you curious to discover the four that I cherish the most?

 

Rebecca

The unnamed narrator of this astonishing book is a self-doubting young woman who marries Maxim de Winter after meeting him in Monte Carlo. She moves with him to Manderley, his family home, where her insecurities and doubts are greatly amplified. How can she ever be as perfect as his deceased first wife, Rebecca? The first novel I read by Daphne du Maurier remains my favourite. It is enthralling, enigmatic and atmospheric. The gripping mystery is perfectly accompanied by fleshed out characters. Continue reading

Favourite Supporting Characters II

The most memorable characters tend to be the protagonists. However, books are far more engrossing when their supporting characters are as realistic, complex and engaging. Per definition, secondary characters are not the focus of the main storyline, but they are still essential for our enjoyment of a story.

Since writing my first post about my favourite supporting characters, around four years ago, I’ve discovered a few more who are as remarkable. Daphne du Maurier created three of them, which is unsurprising considering her talent.

 

Richard Grenville – The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier

Although Richard Grenville isn’t the protagonist of The King’s General, he is a critical character in the story. Honor Harris, the protagonist, explains why she fell in love with him. Their interactions, particularly at the beginning of the book, are amusing, charming and captivating. His actions are both kind and shameful. He is sarcastic, wild and careless with his finances. Continue reading

Favourite Protagonists II

While some books shine thanks to their gripping plots, others enchant readers because of their convincing and memorable characters. They don’t need to have faultless personalities, but their traits and behaviours have to be plausible and feel genuine. A great, complex protagonist is always a plus in any novel. Since I wrote my first post about my favourite protagonists, almost four years ago, I’ve discovered other believable main characters that I soon won’t forget.

 

Mary Yellan – Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier created magnificent characters. The protagonist of Jamaica Inn, Mary Yellan, is just one of many. She is spirited, determined and curious. Although she is undoubtfully brave, in certain occasions she (understandably) succumbs to fear. It’s striking how she frequently muses on her behaviour towards other characters, particularly her aunt. Despite being well-intentioned, Mary is sometimes too severe with her.

 

Circe – Circe by Madeline Miller

Bullied and tormented by her siblings, Circe felt like an outcast since a young age. Madeline Miller clearly shows how the life experiences of the protagonist of this Ancient Greek myth retelling shaped her personality. After using her witchcraft powers, Circe is banished to a deserted island, becoming much more independent and less fearful. Her emotions are believable and palpable throughout. Continue reading

Favourite Characters by Daphne du Maurier

Many of Daphne du Maurier’s books stand out thanks to a magnificent creation of atmospheres. The characters that she crafted are not less remarkable, however. Some of my favourites are not necessarily the most perfect human beings or ones that I identify with, but they feel real and live off the page. They are characters that are not easy to forget.

 

Mrs de Winter

The first name of the narrator and main character of Rebecca remains a mystery for the entirety of this outstanding novel. At the beginning, she is an exceedingly insecure and timid young woman, who lives in the shadow of Mr de Winter’s deceased first wife, Rebecca. She becomes much more confident by the end, though. Despite her diffident personality, Daphne du Maurier managed to make her relatable.

 

Mary Yellan

Jamaica Inn also has a great main character. Curious, feisty and determined, Mary Yellan reveals great complexity. Although she is brave, she occasionally succumbs to fear. She has good intentions, but doesn’t always address her aunt with kindness, something that she is aware of, as she reconsiders her behaviour. I loved her interactions with Jem Merlyn. Continue reading

Books I Almost Loved

Very rarely do I rate books with five stars. For that to happen, a book has to be perfect in every regard in my opinion. I can’t even have a minor complaint. As I decided early on not to use half stars on my ratings, I always award four stars to books that weren’t flawless but that I almost loved. Only by reading the review can my high esteem for such books be fully perceived. The following eight books fall under that category.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

This retelling of an Ancient Greek myth resembles a fictional memoir. Circe, the daughter of Helios (the god of sun) and Perse (a nymph), was sentenced to exile as a punishment for using witchcraft against her own kind. Throughout the book, Madeline Miller delves into the meaning of love and the fear of losing a dear one. The prose is gripping and the characters feel truly real, thanks to a tangible portrayal of emotions, particularly those of Circe. However, the book loses a bit of its enchantment when Circe tells stories about Odysseus.

 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

The first book in The Farseer Trilogy is not only a story of court intrigue and lust for power, but also a true interpretation of human emotions. When he was 6 years old, Fitz was left by his grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. Some years later, he started being trained as an assassin in secret. The detailed and absorbing writing style is one of the highlights of this fantasy book. Unfortunately, the last chapter is not as thorough and some events are just briefly mentioned. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2019

2019 was a complicated reading year. I read various praiseworthy novels, short story and poetry collections. In terms of genres, my reading was as varied, featuring classics, literary fiction, fantasy and myth retellings, for example. So far, I’ve read 34 books and will probably finish another one in the following days. However, I decided not to finish eight books, a number higher than ever before, if I’m not mistaken.

This was also the year when I chose to reread a book again after probably decades without doing so. Thus, I had to decide whether to include rereads in my favourite books of the year or not from now on. I decided against it. This post only includes books that I read for the first time during the year, irrespective of date of publication.

I don’t tend to rate books with five stars very often, because they need to be completely flawless for that to happen. This year I only rated one book with five stars, and it was the one that I reread – O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis) by José Saramago. The majority of the books that I rate with four stars are still great, though. Some of the five books that I selected as my favourites of 2019 are indeed almost perfect, in my opinion. In reverse order, they are: Continue reading

Daphne du Maurier: A Queen of Atmospheric Novels

Daphne du Maurier may have been born in London in 1907, but it’s Cornwall, where she lived for most of her life and died in 1989, the main setting of several of her books. Boasting a craggy coast, inspiring coves, sandy beaches and clifftops filled with flowers, the region fits perfectly with her atmospheric stories. It’s not difficult to fall in love with her writing style. Vivid characters, a gripping prose and a sprinkle of mystery turn her novels into enthralling reads, even if they are not always perfect. She published her first novel, The Loving Spirit, in 1931. This is not the book she is best known for, though.

Rebecca is probably her most famous novel and, without a doubt, my favourite so far. After marrying Maxim de Winter, the unnamed narrator moved with him to his family home, the iconic Manderley. Being an insecure young woman, she already felt inferior to his deceased first wife, Rebecca. Living in Manderley only amplified her doubts and apprehensions. While she didn’t know how to deal with the staff nor was she familiar with her husband’s routines, Rebecca seemed to have been perfect. And Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, was always there to remind her of that.

Accusations of plagiarism were raised regarding the book. Carolina Nabuco, a Brazilian author, believed that Daphne du Maurier had plagiarised her novel A Sucessora, although it had only been published in Portuguese at the time. She considered that the initial storyline of both novels was very similar, but she never sued Du Maurier, who claimed that she had never heard of Nabuco’s book before. The American Edwina Levin MacDonald went as far as filing suit in 1941. The complaint was dismissed, however. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – January 2019

After loving sharing with you my selection of favourite books, TV series, films, music, joyful activities and items from each month in 2018, I decided to continue to do the same this year. January wasn’t particularly memorable. However, I still have a couple of favourites that deserve to be highlighted.

I read three books last month. My favourite was Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. After the death of her mother, Mary Yellan went to live with her aunt and uncle at Jamaica Inn. She soon realised that her uncle was involved in a smuggling business. Was that the only illegal activity that he was guilty of? A dangerous atmosphere is present throughout the novel. The characters’ dialogues feel truly real, and I particularly loved the interactions between Mary and Jem Merlyn.

Although I didn’t watch many TV shows in January, the ones that I did were fantastic. I continued my annual re-watch of Game of Thrones and have now finished season 3. I adored it as much as when I watched it for the first time. Obviously, I wasn’t as shocked by episode 9 as before, but it still breaks my heart. I also watched the first episode of Sex Education the day before yesterday and quite liked it. It’s so hilarious that I cannot wait to watch the rest of the series. Continue reading