Parsing Protagonists With Psychological Problems

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When I wrote last week’s post about fictional characters with disabilities, I mostly focused on physical disabilities. But what about characters facing mental challenges — depression, autism, bipolar disorder, etc.? This post will focus on that.

I’ll first note that depression can be a sort of physical disability — a brain-chemistry thing. In other cases, people with so-called “normal” brain chemistry can feel deeply depressed when going through traumatic life experiences — death of a loved one, a severe personal illness, being in an abusive relationship, getting divorced, losing a job, having major money troubles, becoming the victim of a crime, dealing with virulent racism, and so on.

Earlier this month I read Paul Harding’s VERY well-written, almost unrelentingly downbeat 2009 novel Tinkers. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book stars George Crosby, who is close to death and of course greatly depressed about that. He begins hallucinating about his deceased parents, who we see were also quite morose because of their difficult lives — father Howard had a miserable, low-paying job as a peddler and suffered bouts of epilepsy, and mother Kathleen was extremely dissatisfied with her marriage and the overwhelming demands of parenting several children.ย 

An earlier Pulitzer-winning work, Harper Lee’s 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird, of course features the major supporting character Boo Radley — a recluse with a mental condition that today might perhaps be labeled autism.

There’s also John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, co-starring intellectually challenged migrant worker Lennie. His lack of understanding about certain things is pivotal to the story line.

War can of course do a number on people’s psyches. In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, World War I veteran Septimus Smith is suffering from “shell shock” — now often called post-traumatic stress syndrome. And one doesn’t have to have been a soldier to be mentally pummeled by war, as is the case with beleaguered widow, mother, and teacher Ida Mancuso in Else Morante’s novel History — set in Rome during World War II. Another riveting WWII-era novel, Erich Maria Remarque’s Arch of Triumph, includes the suicidal co-protagonist Joan Madou.

Among the many other fictional creations who attempt suicide or contemplate it are Edna Pontellier, who is not happy with marriage and the patriarchal order of things in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening; and Martin Eden, who’s depressed about his writing life in the Jack London novel that bears Martin’s name.

Then we have psychotic characters such as the terrifying Judge Holden in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and the dangerously crazed Annie Wilkes of Stephen King’s Misery.

There are also situations where a character is seen by authorities as having psychiatric issues, but do they really? Perhaps they’re just battered by life. One example of a protagonist in this situation is the impoverished Connie Ramos, who’s institutionalized during partย of Marge Piercy’s sci-fi-ish novel Woman on the Edge of Time.

Speaking of institutionalization, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest famously has its characters in that setting.

Fictional people dealing with mental challenges can make for very dramatic, sobering, and relatable reading.

Any characters and novels you’d like to name that fit this theme? I’ve obviously only mentioned a few.

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about topics such as an appalling opinion piece by a local leader — is here.

146 thoughts on “Parsing Protagonists With Psychological Problems

  1. When it comes to irresponsibly stereotyping/stigmatizing people living with mental illness, the 2008 box-office-hit movie The Dark Knight (as overall entertaining as it was) is a textbook example.

    In one memorable scene, the glorified Batman character recklessly erroneously grumbles to the district attorney character Harvey Dent that the sinisterly-sneering clearly-conscience-lacking murderer he has handcuffed to a wheeled stretcher is โ€œa paranoid schizophrenic โ€” exactly the kind of mind that the Joker attracts.โ€

    We had entered the third millennium, yet a 4/4-star-rated Hollywood hit movie could still be readily found flagrantly demonizing mentally ill characters. Where was the societal condemnation?

    Indeed, people with mental illness, including schizophrenia, and/or cerebral conditions like autism are far more likely to harm themselves and/or be a victim of violence than they are to harm others.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, fgsjr2015! An excellent and important comment, and well said. You’re absolutely right that it’s inaccurate for mental illness to be associated with criminality, and that Hollywood (and other mediums) can get things wrong when depicting mental illness.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, I’m down to having read 2 books you mentioned.
    I’d like to offer up Sybil, by Flora Rheta.
    Like some other books I’ve read, as informative as they are, I will never watch the movie.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Dave, have not read much lately was listening to the confirmation hearing of Ketanji Brown Jackson and was shocked ( not surprised by the open display racism of some Republican Senators)

    Just a quote from the book in my hand by Walter Mosley….Blood Grove

    ” White people have more than one race..Italians, Germans, Irish, Poles, English, Scotts, Portuguese, Rissians, Oldworld Spaniads, New World Irish and many other combos.
    Black people have color schemes from high yellow to moonless night ”

    ..and so on…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great to see this post Dave! So many tremendous recommendations here I don’t even know where to begin!!!
    I haven’t got to the bottom of all the comments just yet (so forgive me if the following have already been mentioned!). I thought the governess in ‘The Turn of the Screw’ should at least be given an honourable mention. Whilst I found the actual writing quite long winded and just a little dull (sorry Henry James’ fans) I found the actual premise fascinating and, bizarrely, I probably gave the book more thought. From a psychological perspective (and not that I’m an expert!) it’s so interesting to look at this as a gothic psychological thrillery type thing. In a similar vein – and similar era – ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ also fits this new genre I’ve clearly just come up with ๐Ÿ˜‰
    And finally, one of my favourites, which I may have to reread this year is ‘Hangover Square’ by Patrick Hamilton (him who wrote ‘Gaslight’ and ‘Rope’ – which could also be put forward for this category as well, but I haven’t read the screenplays/plays only seen the films). This is set just before WWII and is about a character who has some sort of dissociative personality disorder and has blank episodes in his life which gets him into all sorts of trouble!
    I shall get to the bottom of the comments shortly…but thanks for delving into this!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh and someone mentioned narcissism and Dorian Grey was put forward, but I shall also suggest my old friend Robert Browning and a couple of his rather fabulous monologues – ‘My Last Duchess’ – The Duke certainly has some issues there. And finally ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ which, from the get-go, suggests an undercurrent of ‘madness’.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Sarah! Many great mentions by you!

        “The Turn of the Screw” was not discussed in a previous comment. ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree that it fits this theme, and also agree that it’s not the most scintillating novel by an author I also have mixed feelings about. (I do like some of his novels — such as “The Portrait of a Lady” — a lot.) And, yes, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”!

        Your mention of an author (Patrick Hamilton) who inspired a Hitchcock film (“Rope”) reminded me of another Hitchcock-film-inspiring author — Daphne du Maurier, who created some characters who were rather interestingly twisted in their way.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes of course du Maurier! She did create some very interesting characters although, I will be honest, I did not enjoy ‘Jamaica Inn’ and didn’t think it lived up to its reputation unfortunately. You’ve just reminded me of another author who was writing around the same time as du Maurier. Rumer Godden wrote ‘Black Narcissus’ about nuns in India. That’s a great book that fits the theme this week.
          I’m going to have to revisit Henry James. I only got about half way through ‘Portrait of a Lady’ some years ago. Now I’ve read more books set in this era I’ve probably got a bit more context to go on!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’ve never read “Jamaica Inn,” but there were certainly some “interesting” characters in du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” “My Cousin Rachel,” “The House on the Strand,” etc.

            Even though “The Portrait of a Lady” is my favorite Henry James novel, it did drag in spots. ๐Ÿ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

    • The ambiguous and nearly-inferential presentation of the tale make James’ “The Turn of the Screw” one of the most satisfyingly unsatisfying takes on the supernatural I have read. But its uncertainties must have left generations of readers wishing for clarity, or else “The Innocents”– the play on which the movie of the same name is based– might not have come into being.

      In the play, and in the movie, the ghosts are presented as being real, and the governess and children as victims, the children possibly willing victims, more or less, of their dark powers. The screenplay, incidentally, is mostly the work of Truman Capote, who paused “In Cold Blood” in order to devote his energies to it.

      I prefer the irreconcilable ambiguity of James’ novella, but then I like this quote :

      “Stupidity consists of the wish to conclude.”– Gustave Flaubert

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, jhNY! Very well said!

        Maybe the ambiguity and subtlety of “The Turn of the Screw” are what contributed to me not being a huge fan of it. I can understand why “The Innocents” (which I’ve never seen) made things more straightforward. Then again, I’ve liked some other ambiguous and subtle novels — as you seem to have liked “The Turn of the Screw” to a significant degree.

        Didn’t know those facts about Truman Capote!

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        • Saw “The Innocents” at age 10, when my mother, in order to mark us for life, or because no other movie was in walking distance of home, took me and my sister, aged 8. Scared us silly. So my introduction to the James story came by way of the movie, which itself came from the play. I own a copy of the play, and have read it too, though years ago.

          Took me years after college to get around to the source, and what pleased me most was the unsettled heart of the thing, and the way James managed to never come down entirely on the side of any interpretation one might attempt to derive out of his way of going about his authorial task.

          Which reminds me of my favorite James quote: “My last word is never my last word on anything.”

          Liked by 2 people

      • I am a mere amateur when it comes to all things literature, but honestly, after reading ‘The Turn of the Screw’ – which I thought was going to be a straight up supernatural ghost story – thought was better interpreted as a psychological/on the edge of madness type affair. I thought her behaviour fascinating and really enjoyed analysing her obsessiveness. I thought the children’s behaviour could be interpreted as being ‘normal’ and her excessive attentions to them along with concealing information from the father was just a recipe for disaster!
        I haven’t seen any adaptations of this because my scare threshold is very low, so it’s very interesting that the supernatural interpretation persists (as far as I’m aware), which means that I’ve probably completely missed the point! ๐Ÿ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Guess I mentioned “Bewilderment” a little too early last week haha! ๐Ÿ™‚ The book “Cher-Ami and Mr. Whittlesey,” which came out a couple years ago, chronicles the terrifying saga of the Lost Battalion of WWI – a debacle so traumatizing it caused deep mental illness for its commander – Major Whittlesey. “My Dark Vanessa,” another book that came out a couple years ago, deals with the trauma, hurt, and questions that linger after a period of prolonged abuse. I also always wondered if the mother in one of my favorite books, “Pride and Prejudice,” suffered from some sort of anxiety disorder ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, M.B.! Excellent examples of this theme! And, yes, many novels can fit a theme two weeks in a row. ๐Ÿ™‚

      War and abuse can really do a number on people.

      As for “Pride and Prejudice,” Mrs. Bennet was indeed quite a…”character.” ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think the whole of human behavior, if not all, is compensatory. Man’s struggle just to keep up, to cope, to make sense of that which is often unknown and/or unaccepted.. I want to add to these comments the entire works of Tennessee Williams, which to my mind contains a plethora of characters that are not so much off as they are broken. I once remarked to a friend that a certain individual’s personality wasn’t normal, And, of course, she replied, What’s normal? Well, we have to start somewhere; however, I can’t say exactly where that somewhere is. In extreme situations, we don’t know how we might act, I say this while watching “The Planet Of The Apes” ha. So I think the ability to set boundaries may be the best that we can do….Not my circus, not my monkeys. Great post Dave. Susi

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Susi!

      Yes, it’s not easy being human and coping with all of what life throws at us — and with all there is to fear. No surprise that many people, whether real-life or fictional, have some psychological issues.

      And, yes again, defining “normal” isn’t 100% easy.

      Great point about the characters in various Tennessee Williams plays! A number of them are broken indeed, if not at first than eventually.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Miss Havisham in “Great Expectations” is more of a caricature than a realistic character but she is definitely mentally disturbed due to being jilted at her wedding.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Tony. Very true. Plenty of Dickens characters were caricature-ish, and there was undoubtedly less nuance in depicting mentally ill characters in long-ago literature than is the case in more recent novels.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Liz! Excellent mentions; I agree that both characters had psychological peculiarities.

      Humbert Humbert and “Lolita” as a whole are indeed really disturbing. Brilliantly written novel, but sickening. “The Stranger” is mesmerizing, though I’m more a fan of Camus’ “The Plague.”

      Liked by 2 people

    • The shooting, Edmund Wilson found “inexplicable.” Which I think is entirely the point, or misses the point entirely. Raymond Meursault’s encounter with his victim is not quite accidental, but somewhat a matter of chance– had the man kept himself off the beach, Raymond would not have necessarily crossed paths with him again.

      Had Raymond not taken his friend’s pistol from him during their earlier confrontation with the victim and his friends, he would not have had it in his pocket. Had he also at that crucial moment not fired four additional shots into the Arab’s body, he might not have been charged with capital murder, given the knife the victim pulled.

      And it isn’t clear to Raymond just why, after a moment’s pause, he resumed shooting when he might as easily have not. His days in a daze of indifferent drifting end to the sound of his own pistol shots.

      The shooting is a self-imposed moment of meaning in a life of progressively estranged detachment, mostly because Meursault–without consciously deciding to do so– from that moment has ceded his otherwise meaningless life irreversibly to the judicial processes that will take it away. He will be defined by his trial and his emptiness will be contained by the dimensions of his cell until his execution.

      There was nothing in him to keep him from killing; there was nearly nothing in him at all.

      Liked by 2 people

        • In the latest “London Review of Books”(3/22/22), Patricia Lockwood has written the issue’s regular Diary segment, and devotes herself and he fictional powers to Kafka. She includes an excerpt without saying where she got it– letters?, unpublished manuscript?– so I can’t make an exact attribution. A portion reminded me of Raymond, at the moment he fires those extra shots:

          “…to feel no compunction, to yield to the non-conscious that you believe far away while it is precisely what is burning you, with your own mind to throttle down whatever ghostly life remains in you, that is, to enlarge the final peace of the graveyard and let nothing survive save that.”

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Most books will allude to mental health because humanity must find a way in which to recognize and understand the complexity of the mind. In my experience, creativity in art, poetry, writing, storytelling, dance etc. is the best way to explore our deeper thoughts.

    Having been a volunteer at Canadian Mental Health Association (BC) for several years, I came to understand that there have been great strides in understanding what it means to experience mental health issues and a mental illness. The statistics are sobering: โ€œBy age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.โ€https://cmha.ca/brochure/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/

    Books such as Mrs. Dalloway, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights explore the personal tragedies and the consequences for those around them. Shakespeare in Hamlet and MacBeth addressed mental health issues, as did the ancients such as Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations.

    Here is where I will digress and gives thanks to a few of the many who have suffered mental illness and still found ways to engage and leave a legacy for us to celebrate:

    Vincent Van Gogh: โ€œI put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.โ€

    Sylvia Plath: โ€œThe silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.โ€ The Bell Jar

    Edvard Munch: โ€œWithout anxiety and illness I should have been like a ship without a rudder.โ€

    Thank you to Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and the list goes on.

    Their experiences with the challenges of mental health influenced their writing. They gave of themselves so that readers could gain clarity of vision.

    Another wonderful post and follow-up discussion, Dave! I will return for more conversation.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Thank you, Rebecca! Tremendous, wide-ranging, eloquent comment!

      Yes, a number of authors and other kinds of creators had mental issues that they overcame (to some extent) or didn’t overcome. It may at times helped and at times hurt their creative process, but it certainly affected it, as you note. Terrific quotes you posted.

      Wonderful that you were a volunteer for the Canadian Mental Health Association of British Columbia for several years! A great way to be helpful, and to learn a lot at the same time. My “education” in mental illness partly came from witnessing my brother’s struggles with it. Also the case with the mother of my first wife.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you for this discussion, Dave. There is a helplessness that comes when you cannot reach out and help another person. I witnessed the struggles of my brilliant uncle and found that all that I could do was be present, be hopeful, be compassionate – for my uncle and also for myself. These journeys are not for the faint of heart. They test our courage and resilience.

        Liked by 3 people

        • And thank you for your comments, Rebecca. It is indeed a helpless feeling when one tries to help someone struggling with mental illness and that help has no effect. Sometimes, it has a small effect, and of course trying and being present almost never hurts, at least. Sorry about your uncle. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

          Liked by 2 people

        • 50 years ago, when I was 20, I worked at a home for autistic children in Tennessee– can’t say how things were done elsewhere, but the place and its executive were very much committed to behavior modification, to the bewilderment of most staff and all patients– though largely it wasn’t for lack of attempting to do what was asked.

          I lasted about a half-year, though after the first 2 months I had asked to transfer to maintenance/janitorial duties. Unstuffing toilets and repairing torn screens infinitely preferable to the unwavering coercion– psychological and physical– of those children, however well-meaning. (Until off-hours, when the staff was smaller and things often got out of hand, and things were sometimes done contrary to the public aims of the institution…)

          A few children there had no business in the place, but had no better place to be placed– brain-damaged, mentally under-developed from birth– and most of the rest were there because their parents had exhausted themselves in every way attempting to raise them.

          Some had come from state hospitals– two young teen boys could not speak one word, though one of them could hum snatches of songs and imitate the bugle employed at the beginning of a horse race. The other had an endless, literally endless appetite, and spent his every waking moment in pursuit of food– no matter how recently fed.

          Over the course of my short time among them, I had 2 memorable dreams, and in each, one of those wordless boys spoke to me and we engaged in conversation, back and forth for some time. When I woke up, for a moment I felt greatly relieved and pleased– before remembering what I had dreamed was a wish I could never make true.

          One of the hardest and least rewarding jobs I ever had. People who can endure in such work are made of sterner stuff than me.

          Liked by 2 people

          • A VERY intense and sobering experience, jhNY, vividly described.

            Years ago, I spent many hours in psychiatric facilities visiting a close family member over a period of several years. So depressing to see that many of the patients of course were understandably unhappy. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Some of the staff members seemed to be doing amazing work, while others didn’t seem to care much — it was a job. And of course understaffing made the work all the harder.

            Like

    • Hi Rebecca, the statistic you quoted about the numbers of people who suffer from mental health issues in Canada is terrible. I wonder what it is here. All three of my sisters have suffered from depression and one also from OCD. It is quite amazing, because I have never been depressed. I didn’t even get day three baby blues. So sad that people struggle so much and it is difficult to understand depression if you’ve never suffered from it. Great book mentions too.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you, Robbie for your insights. What is interesting about these statistics is the words โ€œhave hadโ€ which suggests that there is much hope for moving into well-being. As well, progress has been made in understanding and addressing the complexity of mental illness. My sister, Sarah, is reading Gabor Matรฉโ€™s (Gabor is known for addiction recovery) book, โ€œWhen the Body Says Noโ€ which suggests we must look after ourselves at all times. โ€œThe research literature has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control.โ€ We live in a complex world where these three factors may be clouded.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yes, indeed, given that most people don’t trust governments or the media, it creates a lot of anxiety as we don’t know who or what we can trust. I am lucky as I am able to compartmentalize things and put them away to be examined when I’m in the right frame of mind. They don’t tip over into my daily life much.

          Liked by 2 people

  9. The title character in “Anna Karenina” had serious psychological problems after she lost custody of her son and got shunned by aristocratic Russian society because of her adultery.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Dave what an excellent, caring, thought provoking post !

    These days during the Pandemic, with people losing jobs, couples working from home, causes a lot of emotional distress and as I hear separation or divorce.
    We are living through a tough time.

    In Harper Leeโ€™s 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird , Boo Radley`s case was the perfect example of emotional distress. He stayed inside until he found two kids he could relate with. And started to leave toys and gifts for them .

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Bebe!

      You’re right — the pandemic, job loss, low-paying jobs, and more definitely contribute to stress and worse. And too much togetherness can indeed be difficult even in good marriages; people need some time apart.

      Yes, Boo Radley is quite a character — more complex than first meets the eye. And the conclusion of “To Kill a Mockingbird” would have been very different without him. Your last paragraph gives a person a warm feeling. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

        • I hear you, Bebe. I guess it depends how widely we define mental illness. Both of them have a few screws loose. But I have no sympathy for either; they both have caused too much damage — Trump to democracy in the U.S. with his “Stop the Steal” insanity, etc., and Putin of course with his murderous invasion of Ukraine as well as his previous aggressions.

          Liked by 2 people

  11. Your post, Dave, really makes me think of the many difficult situations, which may make us mentally sick! Due to the war in the Ukraine I thought to mention “Regenartion” by Pat Barker, in which the writer analyses the many conflicts- war neurosis- which may appear in such surroundings. Many thanks for mentioning various books, which I do not know, such as Woman on the Edge of Time.

    Liked by 9 people

  12. OOH. I do love protagonists with psychological problems I won’t write a book without one because their reactions are not what might be expected. Okay so fictional characters with disorders?? Well, there’s Salnder from Dragon Tattoo, Larry Darrell from The Razor’s Edge, I guess that Catherine Earnshaw was not quite right, shall we say? Great post. Always a grand read.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. Matt Haigโ€™s โ€œThe Midnight Libraryโ€ takes place in the moments between the protagonists attempted suicide and her ultimate outcome. In those moments, she visits a variety of possible lives she could have led had she made different choices. Some are colored by depression, others by different mental health challenges. I loved the book as I read it. But the set up is also interesting from a literary convention perspective. If you were in the writerโ€™s seat, it almost answers the question of what a character could be as you continue to alter its back story.

    Liked by 6 people

    • HI Dave, I was pleased to see this topic pop up today. Mental health issues are so prevalent right now among the youngsters. They are overwhelmed with all the worries and anxieties our modern world is presenting them with. The two books I can think of with characters who suffered from mental health issues are A Beautiful Mind and Sybil. Both of these books impacted me heavily, especially Sybil which I read as a teenager and which I have never forgotten. I still get the shivers when I think about the book. Other books which portray anxiety and mental illness less forcefully are Jane Eyre (the mad wife in the attic), The Red Badge of Courage features the young Henry Fleming who longs for a wound to show the world he is not a coward. He spends the entire story overcoming his self doubt and feelings of shame for fleeing from his first battle. The Yellow Wallpaper is another excellent story about post-natal depression which made a big impression on me. Regeneration by Pat Barker is about a mental hospital in the UK for officers suffering from PTSD, wow, what a book. I will be back tomorrow to see what other books people recommend for this topic.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Thank you, Robbie! So true about the mental-health challenges many young people are facing during today’s anxious and pressurized times. COVID and widening income inequality (many young people obviously are underpaid) add to the problem. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

        I appreciate the mentions of six great titles, and the excellent descriptions of each! “The Yellow Wallpaper” story IS a harrowing tale of a woman driven into near-madness by sexism/misogyny/patriarchy and more. It has some resemblance to Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” novel cited in my post. Both works from the 1890s.

        I recently read “Regeneration” after you and others recommended it — intense indeed!

        Liked by 4 people

        • Hi Rebecca, I don’t know that book. I will find it on Amazon. I have quite a few of your recommendations, as well as some by Dave and Sarah to read. I’ve given up on War and Peace because there is to much romance and not enough war. The Rostov’s are making me very irritated with all their stupidity.

          Liked by 3 people

          • How far did you get in War & Peace? The Rostov family does have an emotional โ€œvibrancy.โ€ There are so many books on my stack, which continues to grow much to my delight. I will never ever run out of books to read.

            Liked by 1 person

            • HI Rebecca I was up to chapter 198. Quite far into the book but I need a break from Natasha and Nicholai who are both a bit foolish in my opinion. I read that Natasha was Tolstoy’s idea of a perfect women and I felt a bit offended [haha!]. I don’t read Austin because I find her female characters a bit silly too. It is probably how it was with wealthy females back then but I prefer it when people behave more sensibly.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Oh my, you are up to July 2022! I was looking into the character of Natasha and found that many believe that Natasha is one of Tolstoyโ€™s grandest creations. She represents joyful vitality and the ability to experience life fully and boldly compared to Helene Kuragina, who is stony and scheming. Natasha and Nicholaiโ€™s characters have not been fully explored at the stage in the book where I am now. I have made a promise not to look at the last page (something that I find very difficult to do). I will remain strong.

                Liked by 3 people

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