As you will discover as this challenge continues, I am incapable of picking a single book for anything. So each post will probably look at two or three books.
My first choice for favourite side character is Walser from- Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Jack Walser is the straight man to the magical, winged woman Fevvers in Angela Carter’s wonderful tale of mystery and intrigue. In a lot of ways, he performs the function of a reader, incredulous and duped by the amazing Fevvers. He gets drawn into her chaotic world almost against his will and is amazed by her along with the reader.
In the course of the novel, Walser is frequently injured and humiliated. He completely loses himself at one point before being reborn a new and wiser man. As a reader, we feel for him and worry for him, in a way that you don’t have to about Fevvers who is strong and confident and although she gets into scrapes, she seems so together that there seems little need to doubt she will survive.
The reason I like him so much is that as a journalist, he should be cynical but in the face of the Fevvers, he cannot remain so. He is described as unfinished and does not reach his true personality until he has been through his series of adventures and falls for Fevvers in every way.
Spud from Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Spud is one of my favourite comic characters. He is involved in one of my favourite incidents in Trainspotting – the job interview which he attends with Renton having taken speed and in which he informs the interviewer that has lied on his application form. Welsh perfectly captures his voice, calling everyone ‘cat’ and ‘kitten’ and showing his eternal optimism and friendliness. Unlike Renton, Sickboy and Begbie, Spud is a warm character who maybe a little naive and hopeless but is not as flawed as the others.
Spud has perhaps the most poignant moment in the novel where he begins to feel close to a woman but loses his nerve after remembering a line from There is a light that never goes out by The Smiths. It is heartbreaking.
Ponder Stibbons from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
If you have ever worked in an office (or wherever) and felt that you were the only sane person in the place, then you will have a great deal of sympathy for my third choice, Ponder Stibbons. He is the only sensible wizard in Unseen University. Having to deal with Arch-chancellor, Ridcully on a daily basis would try the patience of a saint and Ponder is often on the very edge of his patience. But what is really great about this character is the strategies he employs in order to ensure that things are actually done his way. The way he plays Ridcully is a joy to behold.
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