March 16, 2013 by dontbringlulubook
What makes a good book? Is it the story itself, be that fictional, non-fictional, autobiographical or otherwise? Or is it the length? The subject matter? The style and tone? The language used? Or is it the characters themselves? Just how important is the success of a book due to whether or not the reader identifies with the characters whose lives they are reading about?
Nowadays, there seems to be an almost unhealthy obsession with reality TV. There are programmes where celebrities – or “everyday people” who through their “everydayness” become celebrities in their own right simply by going about their daily business with a camera following their every move– are ensconced in a house for weeks at a time, take up the challenges of dancing, ice-skating or surviving the perils of the Australian outback, whilst we, the general viewing public, are glued to our seats to see whether these celebrities become winners or losers, often dictated by us, the Big Brother Is Watching You viewers who have the power to create Kings of the Jungle or eliminate people from the competition all at the touch of a telephone button.
But how important is it that we are identify with these people, or, with characters in the books that we read? Does it mean that if we feel a personal affinity to them we are going to like the book or programme better? In the book “Don’t Bring Lulu” whilst the individuals themselves may be different from us, there will be people who can identify with Lulu’s thyroidal condition and the difficulties it placed on the other members of the family.
Just as in relationships, whilst there’s definitely something to be said for meeting someone who is the complete opposite who can perhaps teach us something or show us a different side to life, love or romance than we had previously encountered, in general, meeting someone, watching someone or reading about someone with whom we can identify with and perhaps draw a parallel to our own lives, can increase our enjoyment of the situation. Having something in common is often a great ice-breaker and can make us warm to a particular person or character very early on. If there is something about a character we do not like, just as in real life, we can quickly become disinterested in them and the situations they find themselves in.
So whilst it’s not necessary to identify with the characters for a book to be a success, it certainly can help with the level of enjoyment. We generally chose our friends and relationships in life based upon common bonds that mean explanations aren’t always necessary. Some of the most memorable books are regarded as such because, bar the quality of the writing that can stand alone regardless of how much we relate to the characters, despite the time period, frame, or how long it takes to read, identifying with a particular character makes conjuring them up in our mind’s eye and remembering the detail of the book once we’ve read it last a lifetime.