I’ve said “book” rather than “fictional” because I think I could do with having Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland around, to go out for supplies if the Toilet Paper Hoarders (an issue not actually mentioned by Laura Ingalls Wilder, come to think of it) strip all the local shops’ shelves bare. On a more serious note, I’ve just had a message from my favourite café, urging people to buy, if possible, from small local businesses which are really going to struggle to weather this situation. If there’s an equivalent of the De Smet store nearby, and it isn’t out of barrels of wheat or Ma’s sewing ribbons or whatever, that sounds like a very good suggestion. So, who would be the best book characters to have around?
1a and 1b – Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland, from The Long Winter. They heroically went out in the heavy snow and ice, and made a 24 mile round trip to bring back supplies and save the whole town of De Smet from starvation. No mention of hand sanitiser or toilet roll, admittedly, but still.
2 – Jane Eyre, from (to state the obvious) Jane Eyre. Jane lived through the typhus epidemic at Lowood School. She’s been there and done that. OK, she left her stuff on a coach, but no-one’s perfect.
3 – Melanie Wilkes from Gone With The Wind. One of the genuinely inspiring things about Gone With The Wind is the way that all the petted Southern ladies go to work in the hospital, in horrible conditions. Scarlett hates it, but Melanie throws herself into even the most unpleasant of work. She’s also practical – she accepts donations from the local brothel, because the hospital needs it, when everyone else gets all holier-than-thou over it. Melanie is clearly a gal to have by your side in difficult times.
4. Karen from the Chalet School books. Whilst Matron Besley is getting hysterical over a thunderstorm, Karen calmly marshals all the domestic staff to make sandwiches and hot drinks for everyone. And she’d be able to make something nice out of whatever food you’d got left in stock. She managed to feed everyone during the “Famine” in the early Swiss years, even when Miss Annersley sent some of her flour over to the Maynards. Just a shame that she specialises in coffee rather than tea, but, as with Jane, no-one’s perfect.
5. Madge Russell from the Chalet School books. Madge’s words about being brave look like they’re going to be sorely needed over the next few weeks, and probably months.
6. Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey. Being quarantined with Mr Darcy sounds rather nice, but he’d probably do your head in after a few days of being together 24/7 with no-one else around. Henry Tilney, on the other hand, would make you laugh and keep your spirits up.
7. Charlotte, Duchess of Southport from the Morland Dynasty books, who sets up her own hospital. OK, she was well able to afford it, but not everyone was so philanthropic and so concerned for other people’s well-being. If you can help in any way, please do so.
8. Tatiana Metanova from The Bronze Horseman, who survives the Siege of Leningrad, works as a wartime nurse, donates her own blood to save her husband’s life, drives to the Finnish border despite being shot, and persuades the US authorities to let her into America. As you do. She copes with any sort of crisis!
9. Katy Carr from the What Katy Did books. For a start, she’d tidy everything up if you didn’t feel up to doing it, as she did for Miss Jane. She’d look after the kids if the schools were closed. And she wouldn’t mind her holiday plans falling through, seeing as she seems to hate everywhere she visits anyway. When you got all upset over your holiday of a lifetime being kyboshed, she’d just tell you that you didn’t really want to go there anyway, because the weather was horrible and so was the food.
10. Gilbert Blythe, from the Anne of Green Gables books. Well, the list has to include a doctor, and it may as well be one who can double as a romantic hero. I would obviously prefer Guy Charlton from the Lorna Hill books, but I’m not sure people’d really want to be treated by a vet.
If anyone’s reading this, hope that you and yours are OK in these difficult times, and, if there are any book characters you’d particularly like to have around at the moment, please share ideas!!