Charles Dickens (1841)
It’s practically guaranteed–if I read a book by Charles Dickens it will appear on my list. His characters are by far some of the most colorful and entertaining I have ever met on the written page.
Though a tad bit melodramatic, Curiosity Shop doesn’t disappoint when it comes to character. The hideous Daniel Quilp is evil personified, in look, word and deed. His nemesis is the famous innocent Little Nell, a girl who you know from the outset is just too good for this world. When Nell and her grandfather are displaced from their home by Quilp, they begin a 19th-century road trip, encountering all manner of wicked and troublesome characters. Throughout the story, Quilp haunts Little Nell’s existence with a strange persistence.
It’s fascinating to remember as one reads this book that it was submitted to the public in weekly installments. Dickens himself didn’t always know what course the story would take, since he wrote installments just a week or two ahead of publication. (Trivia note – Thousands of devoted readers in America, eager to learn the fate of Little Nell, crowded the dock in NYC to greet the ship transporting the final chapters of the book.)