Somehow I think this meme is going to end up being the 30 weeks of books instead of the 30 Days of Books. Maybe I’ll get two in this week. Which brings us to today’s:
Day 16 – Favorite female character
It’s funny, there weren’t as many female favorite characters that immediately leapt to mind as did for the “favorite male character” – maybe that’s because I never read much Austen or Alcott growing up – or maybe being a guy I just have a harder time connecting – or maybe it’s that women have usually played a supporting or subservient role in fantasy and science fiction.
Anyway, as I thought about this question a pair of young women came to mind: one real, one fictional.
Anne Frank was a young German girl whose family moved to Amsterdam before the start of the Second World War. I’m sure that you know the story – being Jewish, she and her family had to hide from the Nazi authorities. While in hiding for two years, she wrote in her diary – and from her writing we get a history that is not about politics or propaganda or armies or treaties.
Her story is so tragic of course, because in the end she and her family were found out and shipped to concentration camps. Anne died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen just a few weeks before the camp was liberated in 1945. Anne wrote about her dreams of growing up and becoming a great journalist/writer and being able to create something great that would make her famous – not knowing of course that she would never grow up and that, in fact, she already had.
Liesel Meminger is the subject of the excellent young-adult book The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. While I listened to the audiobook earlier this year, I felt that Anne Frank was always right around the corner. Leisel was a young orphan girl taken in by a family in a Munich suburb in the years before the War. There, she learned a love of reading from her step-father (Hans Hubermann – whose quiet dignity would allow him to enjoy dinner and a drink with Atticus Finch). As the winds of war begin to change the lives of Liesel and her friends – i.e. rationing, conscription of their parents, forcing them to sign up for Hitler Youth – her family hides a Jewish man in their basement. In time, Max leaves to try and escape from Germany and Allied bombers begin to pulverize Munich and its environs. As Anne Frank told the story of the War from the “good guys” side, Liesel’s naiveté gives us a view from inside the other side and reminding us that those caught up in war aren’t always the enemy.
These two young German girls – in a way a reflection of each other – I think will always stay in my head together.