Wednesday, May 20, 2015

10 novels in which deceased people are main characters

For this week's Top 10 (which, being an Aussie, I've posted again on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, as we're always a bit ahead) we were given free reins to choose our own topic. I'm going with this one, for reasons you'll see below. Thanks again to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting these Top 10 weeks.

I got the idea because I'm researching the life of my grandfather, who died before I was born. It made me wonder whether it's really true that when we pass away, the spot we occupied simply closes over without leaving a mark.

 Soren Kierkegaard said something like, 'A tyrant's influence ends when he dies, but a martyr's influence begins when he dies' (or words to that effect). I don't believe you have to be a martyr for the influence of your life to keep making ripples long after you are no longer living it. Rather than being completely forgotten, our loved ones live on in our memories, and in the results of their influence and actions, which become part of a greater tapestry. 

The ten books I mention here are from a variety of genres, authors and eras. The main thing they have in common is that one character, who has clearly died before the story begins, still wields great significance to the point that they are clearly main characters, despite being deceased. These are just a sample of books I've read within the last few years. Let me know if you can think of any others.

A Man Called Ove 1) Sonja from A Man Called Ove (by Fredrik Backman)
Ove's wife, Sonja, passed away about six months before the story begins, but the loving hold she has on her husband is still huge, to the point where he wants to join her as soon as he can figure out a way. He still has the house set up as she left it, talks to her and prioritises his visits her gravestone. We see from flashbacks what a truly good person she was, whose attitudes and way of living shine from the pages. My review is here.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 2) Elizabeth from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (by Mary Ann Shaffer)
In this story told by letters, Elizabeth McKenna comes through in reminiscences as a heroine in a million. It's obvious that even though she's no longer with her friends and family, having been killed as a result of her acts of bravery, many of the good things they're enjoying wouldn't have been possible without her input. My review is here.

Making Marion: Where's Robin Hood When You Need Him? 3) Daniel, aka Henry from Making Marion (by Beth Moran)
The heroine, Marion, has beloved memories of her father who died when she was a child. He was the polar opposite of her mother, who traumatised and almost ruined her life. The reason Marion is in Sherwood Forest is to learn as much as she can about his youth. The details she discovers make him a very touching main character. My review is here.

Still Life 4) Julian from Still Life (by Christa Parrish)
A plane crash takes this hero's life at the very start of the book. We learn a lot more about Julian through flashbacks. His young wife, Ada, discovers more about just how loving her husband was as the story progresses. My review is here.

The Prayer Box 5) Iola-Anne from The Prayer Box (by Lisa Wingate)
This elderly character is discovered dead in her bed by fellow heroine, Tandi, who later turns her life around as a result of a wonderful discovery. Iola-Anne has left stacks of old diaries beginning from her girlhood. Their contents show that people generally misjudged this wonderful lady. My review is here.

African Hearts 6) Marcus from African Hearts
In this Australian novel, the heroine, Gina, is called to Africa, as the result of her brother, Marcus' death. To her shock, she's inherited her brother's worldly goods, and custody of his son, Justin. We learn more about Marcus' good work and vision for his adopted country, along with Gina.

Book of Days 7) Jessie from Book of Days (by James Rubart)
Cameron's beloved young wife, Jessie, died in a tragic accident a long time before the start of the book. Cryptic challenges she left him are so compelling that they send him on an extreme search for a very important book. My review is here.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) 8) James and Lily from the Harry Potter series (by J.K. Rowling)
The fact the these two are dead is at the crux of the whole series, to their orphan son's regret. They died trying to protect him, and the further we read, the more we discover how crucial the Potter couples' role was in the whole intriguing story.

The Kitchen Daughter 9) Ginny's parents from The Kitchen Daughter (by Jael McHenry)
This couple, who looked after their Aspergers daughter, died at the beginning of the book, but are there in spirit, and she discovers more about their hidden lives after they are dead than she did during their lifetimes. My review is here.

Imogen's Chance 10) Hayden from Imogen's Chance (by Paula Vince)
This novel is one of mine, which I'm pleased to fit into this category. The character was 'Dad' to Asher and 'Uncle Hayden' to Imogen. I'll leave it to you to decide whether or not he was good. No matter what you decide, you'll see that even though he died five years before the novel's start, he's still large as life in my protagonists' decisions and thought processes.


  1. I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. One of my all-time favourites and one of the very few I've read twice. Will probably read it again. It was a part of history that I didn't know anything about, but I loved the blend of humour and pathos. It's a shame the author died before it came out.

    1. Hi Nola,
      It was a terrific story, bringing history to life. I read somewhere that it was Mary Ann Shaffer's life passion, and I can see why. How sad that she didn't live to see its success.

  2. Another haunting novel narrated by a young teenager who has been murdered is "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold.

    1. Ah yes, I did read that one, and forgot to mention it. Very different in that Susie, the deceased person, is also the narrator and point of view character. Haunting indeed.