Since today is the Ides of March, I decided to ask our booksellers for some favorite books about revenge. I think our answers might’ve said more about us than about literature … especially Neal’s, who tried to convince us that the best novel on betrayal is a Star Wars novelization called Shadows of the Empire.
Photo by findustrip.
Michelle thought of The Count of Monte Cristo (classic tale of wealth and revenge) and Atonement (the fate of two lovers is in the hands of a preteen … scary). Sri mentioned both Wicked (Good Witch Glinda betrays her friend and college roommate, Elphaba) and the semi-creepy, beautifully illustrated children’s book The Spider and the Fly (you can probably guess the plot of that one).
Cal and I are both fans of children’s fantasy series, so we obviously came up with Lord of the Rings (Gollum), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Peter Pettigrew), and The Chronicles of Narnia (Turkish Delight, Edmund? Seriously?). And, of course, there’s the Bible, which is chock full of betrayal and revenge (Judas, obviously, but also Absalom, Jezebel, Cain, Delilah, King Saul, etc.) and The Sparrow, a novel that includes aliens, space radio, and Jesuit time travel, while somehow beautifully illustrating the enormity of feeling betrayed by God.
It was easy to come up with classics that turn on betrayal (Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights immediately come to mind), but it’s trickier to think of books published recently. Cal says that’s because contemporary authors don’t write on the axis of good and evil anymore, and that modern characters are more likely to get consistently betrayed by their own lives or by themselves than they are to face an evil nemesis.
Personally, I kind of miss the evil nemesis and all that delightful plotting and scheming. But that’s what books are for, right? So I can watch Bertha Rochester burn the house down, or cringe as Aunt Reed subverts Jane’s inheritance, or stand in the senate chamber as Brutus betrays Caesar, whenever I want.
Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books.