I thought this could be a revealing alternative list to that which we see more often, which is, of course, heroic brother and sister duos. The lovable pairs are awesome, but they're very familiar to us by now. We can surely all rattle off examples such as Jem and Scout Finch, Francie and Neeley Nolan, Ron and Ginny Weasley, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. But they're such well-known legends, I don't even feel tempted to write that list. I prefer my book lists to be more quirky or gathered from further afield. That's why I challenged myself to come up with baddies rather than goodies, when it comes to literary brothers and sisters.
They're out there folks, suggesting that unfortunate gene pools do exist, or that questionable upbringing may strike double. It would seem some parents get an opportunity to spread their unfortunate chromosomes through both male and female channels, and when this double trouble makes it into the pages of our favourite novels, all the other characters who have to deal with them must look out.
Without further ado, here they are.
Anatole and Helene Curagin
These two have devastating good looks, and use their physical beauty to mess up the lives of War and Peace's favourite couple, Pierre and Natasha. The ravishingly fashionable society chick Helene gets her greedy clutches stuck into naive Pierre Bezukhov the moment she discovers he's inherited a fortune. He's off to the altar with this evil goddess before he knows what's hit him. Then down the track, her impossibly gorgeous younger brother Anatole seduces Natasha Rostov, an innocent teenager who fully intends to stay loyal to her fiance, Andrei Bolkonsky. But Anatole's pressure to elope is just too irresistible for her to withstand. (See my review.)
Hindley and Catherine Earnshaw
They share the wild family genes of violent and unrestrained passion. Hindley is a despicable bully to his father's adopted foundling, Heathcliff, which comes back to bite him later when he becomes a dissolute drunkard. And Catherine is a screeching diva to her husband Edgar Linton, who she marries just to get society's nods of approval. To a large extent, both brother and sister simply blow themselves out, like raging hurricanes. (Here's my review of Wuthering Heights.)
John and Isabella Thorpe
Look out, city of Bath, for the arrival of this pair of hypocritical fakes. John makes up stories on the spur of the moment to his own advantage, and never realises he's a crashing bore. Isabella is a bit more polished in her social climbing attempts, but anyone who gets to know her well enough can see she's just as insincere as her brother. Unluckily for their victims, they've both inherited what must be the family trait of manipulation. (See my review of Northanger Abbey.)
Alecto and Amycus Carrow
This duo is bad news for Hogwarts in the lead up to the final battle between the forces of good and evil. They are a pair of Death Eaters who are both experts at the dark arts, and are appointed joint deputy heads of the school by the corrupt powers who have taken over the Ministry of Magic. During their reign of terror, cruel punishments are part of everyday life. The Silver Trio, Ginny, Neville and Luna, are hard pressed to figure out how to keep Dumbledore's Army functioning beneath the Carrows' cruel and beady eyes. (No official review but Potter posts are common on this blog.)
Edward and Jane Murdstone
As despicable a pair of siblings as you'd find anywhere, these nasty pieces of work believe their savage piety is fully justified. Edward is in the habit of marrying innocent young women and totally breaking their spirits. In the case of poor Clara Copperfield, his sanctimonious and mean-spirited sister Jane comes to live with them, to help him turn the screws. And they both treat her young son, David, like dirt. (Start here for my thoughts on David Copperfield.)
Anna Karenina and Stepan Oblonsky
These two are united in holding their marital vows super loosely, even though they both claim to be committed to their spouses and children. Stepan cheats on his wife, Dolly, whenever he has an opportunity, and regards her discovery as a minor hindrance he'll have to get his sister to help him smooth over. Anna herself meets Count Alexei Vronsky on the way to do her brother's dirty work, and instantly decides he is far more desirable than her own husband, who she's been content with until now. (Review is here.)
Now, drum roll for my favourite bro and sis duo, who I can't help liking despite their villainous status.
Henry and Mary Crawford
These two are both easy to like, with spades of charisma, but their family weakness seems to be a sort of shallowness. Henry enjoys flirting with firmly attached or hard-to-get women just to see if he can, and Mary is a social climber who tends to be blaise and flippant about good, sound values. But both brother and sister get burned in their own games. Henry really does come to love Fanny Price, and Mary feels the same for Edmund Bertram. Some readers prefer these bad kids on the block to the main characters of Mansfield Park, and I can count myself among them. (And start here for my thoughts on Mansfield Park.)
Now, how do you like my picks? Have you a favourite villainous brother and sister duo of your own?