Literary history was made this week when two women won the Booker Prize. Female writers and female characters are central to literature. I would like to detail the most compelling female characters within literature, in no particular order-
From Alan Warner`s 1995 novel of the same name. Morvern is a shy shopworker from a remote Scottish village. When she discovers that her boyfriend has killed himself just before Christmas her reaction is unexpected. The story which unravels reads like an unreal odyssey of rediscovery. Warner captures the obsessions of a young woman living in the 1990s with eerie familiarity and accuracy. I was so surprised that a man, and a man from a different generation could encapsulate the young female imagination so expertly. In Warner`s narrative we see the inner life and ambition of someone who would either be patronised or ignored by the older male literary establishment.
2. Frankie Addams.
From Carson McCullers 1946 novel “Member of the Wedding”.
Addams is a twelve year old girl from the Deep South of America. She is a lonely and shy girl who feels at odds with the people around her. She relies on her imagination to survive. It is her only escape from the isolation and hardship she faces outside. McCullers also captures a rare truth, as she illustrates the inner turmoil of an adolescent girl who is trying to find meaning and purpose in a world that she barely understands.
3. Fay Langdon
From Anita Brookner`s 1990 novel “Brief Lives”. Fay is an elderly woman who was once an actress. She is vain, pompous and self obsessed. However she is extremely witty. She turns narcissism into an art form. The denouement is unexpected as we see her kindness reveal itself.
From Muriel Spark`s 1970 novella “The Driver`s Seat”.
Lise is a complex character. She is impulsive and disinhibited and on a collision course that leads to her demise. It is the most illuminating and compassionate evocation of a troubled, disturbed and mercilessly short life. Spark`s prose is masterful, as any other writer would portray her with either ridicule or pity.
5. Aunt Sylvie.
From Marilynne Robinson`s 1980 novel “Housekeeping”.
Sylvie is another troubled character who has evidently lead a peripatetic life and has never really settled anywhere. When her sister Helen dies she decides to look after her two young nieces. However she has an eccentric manner of parenting and keeping house which alienates one sister but intrigues the other. Lucille leaves but her sister Ruth stays as her aunt becomes a much needed confidant. Their fate is unknown as the book ends on a deliberate ambiguity.
All of these characters show that women can be as heroic or as dastardly as men within fiction.