I am a jealous reader. Those characters we share an affinity with, you should know, are mine, mine alone, and, no, I will not negotiate. You might argue that these manifestations of thought and feeling are to be experienced by everyone with access to language but if I could, I would selfishly hoard those scripts into a secret library and request that I be buried with them in a heavy-set sarcophagus—years from now—as we are both lost to the sands.
But I can’t. The boss/the big kahuna/the Editor-in-Chief has asked me to write a list of my favourite characters, so with the trepidation of an uncooperative pen and a blank page, I will share them with you—just this once.
Elio, Call Me By Your Name, Andre Aciman
Sweet, sweet child: my heart warmed to Elio instantly. I assume quite a few people have seen the movie, but the internal monologue Elio endures throughout the book wrenches the memories of calloused heartbreak into something very real and very present. Though his emotional score is uncomfortably familiar and, at times, cringe-worthy, I felt safest as he shared his musical and literature expressions and the way he bonded with the people around him, especially the little girl from next door. For such a young lad, his charm lies in his culturally sophisticated tastes. But, by far, one of my favourite written scenes from any novel is the exchange Elio has with his equally-brilliant father towards the end. It is a stirring reflection of a doting father and humble son who understand and love each other; something of which I hope to emulate as I raise my children.
Peekay, The Power of One, Bryce Courtnay
I had almost forgotten I read this book but the rising-boxing champion, Peekay, has always remained with me. The adversity that strikes him throughout the novel is reminiscent of a schoolboy cane cracked across the knuckles and whipped around the bare legs of a child. Then the blows seem to increase in severity until he is literally punted in the head by a wayward boot; the tale-telling sign that life isn’t going to get much easier for Courtnay’s protagonist, especially as he navigates the South African racial divide from WWII to the story’s closure in 1951. Similarly to Elio and his father, Peekay shares a particularly special, however, controversial bond with Doc and Geel Piet; both of whom exist on the ‘unfavourable’ side of South Africa’s multicultural population. Through his training as a boxer, a classical pianist, and, quite frankly, a decent human being, Peekay transforms comradery into unity and even at his young age becomes a symbol of hope and peace. He is humble, a loyal friend, and tenacious in his fight for change, and has left a permanent mark on my literary skin.
Evelyn Lockhart, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, Natasha Lester
I’m not the romance-novel type, but Evelyn “Evie” Lockhart is an empowered young woman who dazzles those around her, including myself, with her compassion, intelligence, and finesse. The emotional-depth of this character is wondrous. Not only is she able to battle head-strong the demoralising patriarchal figures of her life at home, medical school, and work, but she also has these deeply moving moments where she expresses tenderness, concern, and devastating heartbreak. Evie becomes the first practising female obstetrician in New York during the 1920s and forges a path for women to study medicine all whilst dancing as one of the infamous late-night Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. Her character arc is so rich, I hardly notice the romance that entwines it (though, admittedly, it is a pretty good romance story too).
Severus Snape, Harry Potter series, JK Rowling
The one I am jealous of the most. Greasy haired and black-eyed are not the typical traits of a favourite character, but Severus Snape is THE sh*t (can I swear on the internet?)! I have always been drawn to double agents and anti-heroes; menacing at first but who are the true ride-or-dies. There’s something about the dark side that I like to flirt with a little. Would I be a Death Eater if the opportunity ever presented itself? It’s hard to say. It’s almost at a point now when I get passionate about Dumbledore’s death: “YES, SEVERUS! Kill him! We don’t need him!” But we now know, of course, that Severus Tobias Snape was more than an arrogant potions master. He was fiercely loyal and hopelessly romantic (I couldn’t use those two words loosely enough—we can’t shout “mudblood” and expect a second date).
Snape was the character I needed growing up when I realised I didn’t have the bravado or charisma of Harry Potter (nor wanted it).