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Harriet Vane, Severus Snape and other literary favorites

August 4, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
There are plenty of literary geeks with their very own blogs and sooner or later most of them write about their top 10 favorite characters of all time. I don't read as much as I did as a kid, but I still have plenty of favorites that I find myself going back to.

A few years ago I read all of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers, a mystery series from the 1920s and 1930s, and went back to them again and again for Harriet Vane, prickly mystery writer, Oxford scholar, accused murderer and eventual wife of Lord Peter and his partner in sleuthing. I love the books for their use of language, their exploration of ideas, and their intelligence.

Josephine Tey wrote a historical mystery sometime in the late 1940s called "The Daughter of Time" arguing that Richard III was innocent of the murder of the Princes in the Tower. I re-read it every few years even though I know it by heart by now. The case is solved entirely by a bored London police officer who is hospitalized with a broken leg. It's as interesting for the characterization of the hospitalized police detective, his two nurses, his housekeeper, his actress friend, and description of period pop schlock books as it is for the mystery of Richard III.

I'm also fond of J,K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, not so much for Harry Potter as for the potions master, Severus Snape. Snape is ugly, bad-tempered, a former Death Eater and hates his students as much as they hate him. He's also cuttingly funny, heroic behind the scenes, and one of the reasons Harry Potter survives to kill the evil Voldemort. Snape did it all because he loved Harry's dead mother. Snape was named the most popular character in the Harry Potter books in a Guardian Unlimited poll a few years ago and I can easily see why.

Who are your favorite book characters and why?


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