Tag Archives: Rebecca

#TheGreatAmericanRead, Villains and Monsters, #PBS

This week’s edition of The Great American Read   ( my current TV watching obsession!) was all about VILLAINS AND MONSTERS in books. And the monsters aren’t exactly the kind that appear from under your bed!

This episode was fascinating for me because it made me take a second look at books I typically would never read: dark, tortuous anti-heroes, creepy villains, and tales of obsession. I like to stick to happy, peppy, HEA stories usually. Hee hee

So, the breakdown for the Villains, Monsters, and Evil Forces books on the 100 list are as follows.

OBSESSION. My dictionary defines it thus:an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. The books in this category are pretty recognizable. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Moby Dick.


Dorian is obsessed with growing old and Ahab is obsessed with the great white whale who bit off his leg.

 Thrillers. As a society we love to be scared. Truly. There’s nothing like being placed in a situation – like a movie theater -where you scream with fright at what’s on the screen, and then take a breath because you know it’s not real. The favorite books in this category are Gone Girl and then classic And Then there were none

 Written decades ago, this book started the genre of crime thriller. 10 people are invited to a secluded island under a false pretense and then systematically, to the words of an old children’s poem, are killed to serve some skewered sense of justice. Brilliant writing. Brilliant ending. No one did it better than Dame Agatha

Our next category is the dark side of human nature. George R.R. Martin has a great quote in this segment. He says, “the villain is just the hero who’s on the other side. ” Love that. Here, we have the classic DuMaurier Rebecca and Game of Thrones.  Has there ever been a creepier housekeeper than Mrs Danvers?


Institutional Evil is next on the list. These are the books that turn their attention to societal evil. Books such as The Handmaids Tale and Beloved fall into this category.

We see the United States during two courses of its history real and imagined. First, it’s slavery past in Morrison’s book, and then an imagined future where America is now called Galead and run by a group of men who rule over women. Even though this is a work of fiction, the parallels to what is going on in our society today is pretty terrifying.

The corrupt and all powerful Villain is next. This is where the phrase absolute power corrupts absolutely is a perfect description. The Harry Potter books, The Stand, and Alice in Wonderland fall into this category.


Voldemort covets all the power in the universe as his own. Randall Flagg can read people’s minds and souls to get them to believe in him and him alone, and who can ever read about the Queen of Hearts and not see her as a totalitarian nincompoop?

The last category of Evil concerns those characters who choose ambition over ethics. The Watchers and Frankenstein explore this topic in full detail. Everyone always forgets that Frankenstein is not the monster’s name. Victor Frankenstein is the doctor who wants to reanimate a man and create life. He sees himself as a human God above the spiritual one and he, it turns out, is the true monster in this tale.


My takeaway from this episode is that evil, monsters – real and imagined, and villains who live on the dark side of society are just as readable and fascinating as the good guys in white hats who combat them.

Watch the Great American Read every Tuesday at 8 pm on PBS and vote for your favorites anytime here.


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Who is your favorite Villain?

The person we love to hate; the man we’d like to see incarcerated for life; the woman who needs to be bitch-slapped right now. These are the characters we call Villains.

The true definition of a villain is: the person or thing responsible for specified trouble, harm, or damage.

In romance novels the villain can be:

  • the old flame who comes back into the hero’s life, flooding the heroine with doubts about his love
  • an ex-spouse, or co-worker, or a boss
  • a parent or family member who wants to break the hero and heroine up for any number of selfish reasons
  • ANYONE who has a vested interest in pulling the love interests apart.

Some of my favorite characters are what could be termed villains. They are all self -serving, narcissistic and (mostly) devoid of principles.

Here are a few of my favs:

Caroline Bingley, Pride and Prejudice. The quintessential bitch in a ball gown.

Rochester’s first wife, Jane Eyre. Truly,  one insane biatch.

Briony Tallis, Atonement. (most people won’t agree with me on this one because Briony sets out to atone for her acts, but for much of the novel, she’s the bad guy, and therefore a villain in my mind.

Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca. The original psycho-bitch.

Iago, Othello. Master manipulator and jealous creepazoid.

The best villains I’ve ever read, though, are those characters everybody likes and would never suspect are performing acts of villainy. The good ‘ole southern girl in who’s mouth butter wouldn’t melt, while she’s backstabbing the s**t out of our heroine; the charming rake with a grin a soccer field wide who’s stripping the company’s bankroll bare. Walt Disney had this thing  for step-mothers cast in the role of villains – a true mommy complex if there ever was one. Ever see Dangerous Liaisons?  Best villains EVER.

And of course the best part of reading a book with a good villain is the scene where he/she gets their comeuppance. I live for Karmic payback scenes, absolutely live. Since I’m not quick on the witty repartee comeback ( I need to think and think…and think some more before it’s absolutely a perfect zinger), I appreciate people who are. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than seeing someone get what’s coming to them if they’ve been a rotter to our dear H/H. Remember the last scene in Dangerous Liaisons when Glenn Close gets booed and hissed at during the opera? I booed and hissed at the television right along with the pretend French people in the movie. I know…I’m a little off the beaten track, but hey: I’m happy.

So, dig into your memory banks. Who’s your favorite villain and why? Let’s discuss…



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