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Reading Westeros: Character-Based Themes

Post by Lisa Schimmer
Posted June 11, 2013 in NoveList Plus, Readers' Advisory News

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Here we are, Day 2 of our 5-day-long recap of read-alikes for season 3 of Game of Thrones. First, a quick Internet jaunt before we launch into some book recommendations:

If you're a Game of Thrones master, check out Wired's assessment of the third season versus the third novel in the series, A Storm of Swords. Non-readers aren't missing much, apparently -- though this is hotly contended amongst the dedicated fans of the books around our office. 

You might also notice that all your NoveList bloggers this week are female. Apparently, there's some social expectation that girls wouldn't like Game of Thrones? Well, besides the fact that it would never occur to us NoveListas to hate something that is awesome and entertaining, the Internet is here and armed with math to conclude that this particular swords and sorcery saga has appeal beyond the mismatched chromosome set. 

Unto the Breach and Onto the Books!

Since our quick farewell tour of Westeros yesterday, we're going to be doing daily posts of major themes of this season. First up, and near and dear to my heart, is "dysfunctional families." I understand there is a wide spectrum of what could be considered dysfunctional, but I have a high threshold for appalling behavior and general creepiness in literature. Youthful exposure to V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic will do that. I'm not explicitly recommending the title, but it's out there (and in NoveList) if one is curious. And it's been made into a movie! Just, don't make me got back to that place. 

For a quick read (and creep out), check out Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. In what Tywin Lannister would surely consider a poor political maneuver, most of the wealthy Blackwood family is poisoned by arsenic in the sugar bowl. The surviving eccentric and mentally ill family members/perpetrators try to maintain their former way of life while now being infamous in their hometown. 

Recent winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction, A.M. Homes' May We Be Forgiven chronicles the life of an ordinary middle-aged man put under enormous strain by taking responsibility for his reckless brother's feckless family (and his own mistakes). Lots of sex, violence, and flawed characters (like GoT) but also some food for thought. When selfishness, bad behavior, and hypocrisy reign supreme, how and when do you try to do things differently? Help them Tyrion Lannister, you're their only hope! 

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving chronicles the adventures of a large, strange American family. There's no political power at stake, just a group of related people living an unusual life, dealing with the cards they've been dealt and trying to figure out where they fit. Bizarre, surreal, and whimsical, this isn't a perfect correlation for GoT fans, but the book does feature a Maiden Fair who masquerades as a Bear and, uh, incest.

The eponymous family in the The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson consists of the parents/performance artists Caleb and Camille and their children/pawns, A & B. While it's wacky and quirky when talking about the conceptual art the family concocts and performs, the children grow up into adults who don't know how to relate to other adults (besides each other). If your parents didn't love you enough, or if you hate performance art (think staged videos on YouTube), skip this book -- it'll only trigger bad feelings. But if you want a quick read about the damage narcissistic parents can inflict on their unwitting children (Lannisters, FTW!) AND a bit of a laugh, check this out. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow, Lauren will be talking about "Wordbuilding" themes. 


Lisa S. is an avid reader and a less dedicated television viewer. When she’s not cataloging for NoveList, she’s most likely reading something she came across while… cataloging for NoveList.