Sometimes the characters in a book are so relatable, interesting or just plain loveable that they make it a joy to read. A few that come to mind for me are The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Room by Emma Donoghue, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. However, what happens when the characters in a book are not relatable or even completely dislikeable? Is that a barrier to our enjoyment of the story?
Books I Have Enjoyed Despite Not Liking the Characters
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The characters in this book can be appalling, frustrating and cruel. However, they are also intensely fascinating and drew me into the dark and flawed world of the Heights.
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
Initially, the characters of The Girlfriend seem fairly normal, but as the jealousy between the two women becomes more and more all-consuming I found myself wanting to shake some sense into them! This did not prevent me from becoming utterly hooked. Watching the characters develop into increasingly paranoid, manipulative and frankly quite twisted personalities is part of the story’s addictive psychological tension.
Read my full review of The Girlfriend here.
Books I Could Not Enjoy Because I Hated the Characters
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
There is no doubt that Frankenstein is an extremely unique and well-written book. Personally, however, I found the unwavering self-absorption of Victor Frankenstein so frustrating that it reduced my enjoyment of the story. I internally rolled my eyes a number of times at the repeated melodramatic lamentations of his woes!
Read my full review of Frankenstein here.
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Pinkie, the main character, is a razor-blade-wielding psychopath yet I could not bring myself to fully hate him, mostly due to a sense of pity for his hopeless outlook on life.
Heaven was a word: hell was something he could trust.
Although the characters Greene creates are intricate and complex, this pervading sense of wretched pessimism served to make the story a little too unremittingly dark for my enjoyment.
Read my full review of Brighton Rock here.
Overall, I think that dislikeable characters will not prevent me enjoying a book, provided that they contribute in some way to the intrigue of the story.
Cover images courtesy of Goodreads.
Now it’s over to you! Do you have to like the characters to enjoy the book? Have you read any books where frustrating characters marred your enjoyment of the story, or did they increase your interest in the plot? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!