I think if I had to narrow down my reasons for reading to just one single thing it would be people watching.
I recently heard an idea that exposing a child to classic literature can bring them a wider range of experience than the actual human world can bring. As much as I was suffering through War and Peace at school I think there’s some truth in it. Still, I don’t think every child can appreciate the chance to analyse human nature when there are more rewarding activities waiting outside the classroom. Now though, when the classroom is a couple of decades away, it’s a different story for me.
I don’t remember all events of The Forsyte Saga, but Irene Heron will forever be my hero. If I ever return to these books, it will be for her.
The plot of Madame Bovary is quite interesting, but Madame Bovary herself mesmerised me more than any storylines in the book, and I don’t mean to say the things that mesmerised me were noble or nice. I love watching all sorts of people, as long as I’m doing it from a safe distance of a book.
And what about Anna Karenina? I said it before and I will say it again – it will forever be a mystery to me how Tolstoy managed to lock real people within the covers of the book. But he did. Those are not characters. Those are living beings. And I love watching them.
I think this love is one of the two things that kept me through the books about Patrick Melrose, this and the impeccable, precise, scalpel-sharp writing.
Maybe that’s why it’s easier for me to enjoy literary fiction than fantasy (if I ever enjoyed fantasy). Maybe it’s because one can breathe only that much life into a book, and if you created believable dragons you don’t have any magic left to create believable humans?
I’m currently going through all the works by Daphne du Maurier. Apparently, not all of her stories are good (to my huge surprise). Some of them are so plain it’s hard to believe they are her creations, but the people… the people are always there, alive and breathing.
If you can recommend any books with characters like that, you are very welcome. The characters don’t need to be strong or do incredible things. They don’t even have to be good human beings. They just have to be real.