Friday, 13 February 2015

Characters like Margaret


A mix of good news and bad news today.

Let's get the unhappy news out of the way first.

Colleen McCullough, one of Australia's most iconic writers has passed away. Among many best sellers, international readers will probably be familiar with The Thorn Birds - Ms McCullough's brilliant novel which became a television mini-series.

If you haven't yet read The Thorn Birds, I recommend you do, particularly if you are not Australian. It's a wonderful insight into Australian outback culture in years gone by.

RIP Colleen McCullough, your talents will be missed!

Alright, that's the unhappy news done.

The good news is that Judy Blume has written a new novel - her first new book for fifteen years, and due for release in June 2015.

Why am I excited about this? Well, the name Judy Blume may not mean much to you, but if you were a teenage girl back in the seventies, you will be very familiar with her character Margaret from Are you there God, it's me Margaret.

I first met Margaret when I was about thirteen. I remember the school library had a waiting list a mile long for AYTGIMM - everyone of my friends had read, or was waiting to read it.

When at long last the school librarian told me the book had been returned and it was my turn to borrow it, I was so excited. I took it home, told Mum all about it, and settled in for a good read. I have a very vivid memory of my mum standing over the stove, stirring  something, the spoon in one hand, AYTGIMM in the other - thoroughly engrossed.

The reason for the book's popularity was obvious - we could all relate to Margaret and her teen growing pains. Boys, religion, hormones and puberty are all touched on in this book in a way that my friends and I could understand.

As a bookworm from a very early age, there have been innumerable books and characters that left an impression on me.

Starting with George in the Famous Five novels, Angelique in the Angelique series of French novels, Thomazine Heron in The Moon in the Water, Amber St Clare in Forever Amber ... oh who could forget Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind?

A well-written character, one who invokes your emotions, one you can relate to, one who stays with you long after you've finished reading the book is one of the most fulfilling reader experiences I can imagine. I think it's why we read, isn't it?

Think about books you have not read but whose characters you know of. Boo Radley or Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird come to mind. Okay, I admit that even though it's a classic I've never read it! These are characters so intense that even without having read the book, many of us know of them.

What about Wuthering Heights? I've read that one - several times. But many who haven't will have heard of the dark, brooding Heathcliff.

So even if you haven't heard of Judy Blume, her character Margaret may well have made her impression on you, as she did many teenage girls world wide.

If you've written a book whose characters you believe will stay with the reader long after the reading is done, check out Corvallis Press. They are a relatively new publishing house that is looking for great fiction and memorable characters.

Until next week - what characters have stayed with you? We've updated this page enabling you to more easily leave your comments, so I'd love to hear your opinions. Drop me a quick note about characters you recommend.

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