June 8th, 2010

Discussion Question: Do you have to like the characters?

I am reading a book right now that just isn't working out.  I am not enjoying it one bit.

Is it the subject?  No, it's a historical fiction set in the Tudor courts.  I love me some Tudor drama.  Pacing's fine.  The writing's adequate, clear and descriptive.  But it's told through the eyes of one woman, and I don't like her.  She is the most annoying, whining, desperate woman I've come across in years.  While I disagree with the way the author chose to portray most of the characters in the book (these are very well-known historical figures) the fact that the main voice, the narrator of events, is so irritating absolutely kills the book for me.

So this got me thinking about books and storytellers...do you have to like the main character/main narrator to like a book?  For example, I loved A Confederacy of Dunces, but my boyfriend and my mother both hate the book.  They both cite the same reason for doing so: they hate the main character, Ignatius.  I was really bored when I read Catcher in the Rye in high school, but it's a classic, right?  But Holden was such a brat - I hated the kid.  So I never wanted to touch that book again.  (I sometimes wonder if I'd enjoy it now, so I may have to pick it up sometime.)

Now I'm trying to think of a book I enjoyed even though I hated the characters, and nothing really comes to mind.  I liked Neverwhere even though I wasn't crazy about Richard, but I didn't hate the guy.  I was just neutral on him.  I hate the main characters in the Twilight series, but I still read three of the books before calling it quits.  Hmmm...

Anyway. 

So, in your experience, do you have to like the main character to like the book?  If not, please name the books you read where you hated the characters but still enjoyed the book.