You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family… an old adage that would ring true for many of the poor souls unfortunate enough to belong to one of my top five fictional families. Happy families, much as we’d all like to have one ourselves, don’t necessarily make for the best stories. The formidable mother, the distant father, the rebellious child; it’s characters such as these that are the staples of many an entertaining read. Of course, some kind of family unit features in pretty much every novel; the ones I’ve picked out are from books in which family relationships are a driving force of the story. There were so many to choose from I’m sure I will have omitted some of your favourites! But I hope you enjoy my selection.
My top 5… families in fiction
- The Bennets from “Pride and Prejudice” – they’re one of fiction’s most well-known families and the first that sprung to mind when I was thinking about this blog post. Between them the Bennet girls cover every point on the spectrum between rash irresponsibility and austere propriety, while the irrepressible Mrs. Bennet, who’s determined to get her girls married off come hell or high water, is one of the most memorable mothers ever to grace the pages of a book.
- The Riordans from “Instructions for a Heatwave” – this is one of my favourite novels of the last few years: an impeccably realised story of a fragmented family attempting to come back together. The novel’s atmosphere is stifling, as if from the weight of all the secrets that each one of the Riordan family carries while they try to keep them hidden from those they love.
- The Pooters from “The Diary of a Nobody” – the head of this hilarious literary family is the put-upon Charles Pooter, whose diary faithfully records all the banalities and petty troubles of a true Nobody. While “dear Carrie” presides over chintz chair covers and legs of mutton, and wilful son Lupin is preoccupied with an intermittent love affair, Mr. Pooter gamely soldiers on, doggedly trying to maintain a decent foothold in his tiny corner of society.
- The Cookes from “We are all completely beside ourselves” – if you want a classic case of parents messing up their children, this is it. I won’t spoil the novel’s unexpected revelation by telling you exactly how; I will only say that this unique family unit is the basis for a social experiment that goes horribly awry…
- The Willoughbys from “Family Roundabout” – this was a difficult choice since this sparkling novel is actually about two families, united by marriage and engaged in a subtle but carefully choreographed game of one-upmanship. I went for the Willoughby family purely because Mrs. Willoughby is one of the most formidable matriarchs I’ve ever come across anywhere in fiction – and she’s frighteningly believable. If you’ve never read this and love a good family drama, then I’d thoroughly recommend it.