I think if I had to narrow my reasons for reading to just one thing, it would be people watching.
I recently heard an idea that exposing a child to classical literature can bring them a wider range of experiences than the actual human world can bring. As much as I suffered from war and peace at school, I think there is some truth to it. Still, I don’t think every child can appreciate the opportunity to analyze human nature with more rewarding activities waiting outside the classroom. Now that the classroom is a couple of decades away, it’s a different story for me.
I don’t remember all the events of The Forsyte Saga, but Irene Heron will forever be my heroine. If I ever return to these books, it will be for them.
Madame Bovary’s plot is quite interesting, but Madame Bovary herself intrigued me more than any of the storylines in the book, and I’m not saying that the things that intrigued me were classy or nice. I love people watching as long as I’m doing it from the safe distance of a book.
And what about Anna Karenina? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it will forever be a mystery to me how Tolstoy managed to lock real people in the book’s covers. But he did. They are not characters. These are living beings. And I love to watch them.
I think that love is one of the two things that got me through the books on Patrick Melrose, this and the flawless, precise, scalpel-sharp writing.
Perhaps that is why I find it easier to enjoy literary fiction than fantasy (if I’ve ever enjoyed fantasy). Maybe it’s because there is only so much life you can do to a book, and once you’ve created believable dragons, you run out of magic to create believable people?
I’m going through all of Daphne du Maurier’s works. Apparently, not all of their stories are good (to my great surprise). Some of them are so simple it is hard to believe that they are their creations, but the people … the people are always there, alive and breathing.
If you can recommend books with such characters, you are very welcome. The characters don’t have to be strong or do incredible things. They don’t even have to be good people. You just have to be real.