Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.
Inspired by Abigail's post on Monday in which she gave four tips for writing realistic sibling relationships, I thought I'd give you all a top ten list. If you want to see great examples of realistic sibling interactions, read any of these books (or comics) and you'll be inspired.
1. The Dashwood Sisters
Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility are one of my favorite groups of siblings. Elinor and Marianne, especially, have a wonderful dynamic. Elinor is "sense," a typical eldest child, overly responsible and careful about everything and almost motherly to her younger siblings. This gives impulsive and free Marianne, the "sensibility" in the story, the freedom not to have to worry about being anything but her own interests. Margaret, much younger, is a lovely and humorous counterpart to Elinor and Marianne's serious conflicts. Through the course of this story, Elinor and Marianne come to grow, value, and learn from each other's strengths and weaknesses. This book (and the amazing movie) makes me cry every time.
2. The Bennett Sisters
I'm sorry, but Jane Austen is just so good at characterizing, and the Bennett sisters from Pride and Prejudice are even more complex and wonderful than the Dashwoods, in many respects. Eldest Jane is a picture of perfection, both in beauty and temperament, while Elizabeth is clever, practical, and quite stubborn. I love this pair because they are so dear to each other. There is never any jealousy or anger between the two. They are stalwart friends, and it's simply lovely. They are not the only Bennett children, of course. In the words of their father, Jane and Elizabeth have "a couple of—or I may say, three—very silly sisters." Mary is bookish and loves to play piano and spout legalistic advice. Kitty is rather vapid, always swept along by the youngest, Lydia, who is spoiled, willful, and altogether brash. How I love reading the dialogue in this book. All of the characters are so wonderful, I often laugh and laugh.
I must give a nod to Mr. Darcy and his younger sister, Georgiana. Mr. Darcy is a great deal older and plays more of a father figure role to his sister. He is her protector, advisor, and caretaker. He dotes on her. And even more precious, he rescued her from the horrible Mr. Wickham and forgave her with easy grace. And Georgiana loves her brother dearly, is proud of him, and looks up to him as the perfect example of what a man should be. Because of this relationship, readers love Mr. Darcy all the more.
3. The Weasleys
The Weasley family from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books are one of the most endearing families ever written. The chaos in a house filled with red-headed children, the pranks, the poverty. It's real and picturesque, even in a fantastical home called the Burrow. Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny make me smile. Fred, George, and Ron, are especially responsible for most of the laugh-out-loud moments I had while reading this series. I will never forget Fred and George trying to enter the Triwizard Tournament and ending up looking like old men. Bill and Charlie are adults, off doing important things. And, Percy, of course, is over-ambitious to make something of himself and instead becomes a traitor to the family for a time. But all of that makes this family even more complex and wonderful. They're just good people.
4. Boromir and Faramir
This pair from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings are the opposite of the siblings I've described so far. These two don't get along so well. They have a complicated past, greatly affected by a father who plays unfair favorites. Oftentimes, for good or for ill, sibling relationships are defined by parents, and that is certainly true of this pair. I have always liked both characters, in spite of how the Boromir allows the ring to affect him, but I particularly enjoy how Tolkien let Faramir, as the underdog of his family, rise above his father's low expectations and become his own kind of hero.
5. Scout and Jem
Parents can have a huge impact upon their children, so when you think of the character Atticus Finch from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, how could Scout and Jem not be wonderful people on their own and as siblings? A good dad will do that to his kids. I loved reading about raucous tomboy Scout and her older, more reserved brother Jem. A girl wants to look up to her big brother, and Jem's a good brother to have. Even if he doesn't have all the answers, he's always there for his sister.
6. The Pevensies
The Pevensies from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia were one of the very first group of siblings I ever read about. Since I was the eldest of five children, and I loved the idea of having an older brother like Peter. But I related to the everyday activity of siblings playing together for hours on their own while parents were elsewhere. That's how I grew up, so the idea that my siblings and I might be whisked away through a portal was an exciting one. Just like the Pevensies, we had our different personalities. Peter the take-charge leader, Susan the wise and level-headed, Edmond the once gullible and needy middle child becomes loyal and witty, and Lucy the kind girl with a very big heart.
7. The March Sisters
Here is another classic group of sisters and one would-be brother. In Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, sisters Meg, Joe, Beth, and Amy grow up during the hard years of the Civil War while their father is off working as an army chaplain. Each sister has a unique personality that shapes her life. Motherly Meg, independent Jo, shy and sweet Beth, and Amy the creative artist. They fight, they make up, they love each other despite their flaws and work together to make their neighborhood a better place. They shine such joy and love that their next-door neighbor, the wealthy boy Laurie, wants desperately to be part of their family. Who wouldn't?
8. Beezus and Ramona
Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series were some of my favorite books as a child. Being the eldest, I enjoyed viewing the world through the eyes of mischievous and creative daydreamer Ramona, but I also related quite well with Beezus losing her temper when her younger sibling's antics went too far. I loved everything about this pair and felt like I knew them well. That is characterization at its finest coming from a book first published in 1955.
9. Katniss and Prim
Katniss and Prim from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games gives a little bit of a different view at a sibling relationship. This one is a less-than-ideal environment, like that of Boromir and Faramir. Affected deeply by the loss of their father and the depression of their mother, the elder sister Katniss stepped into the void to fill the role of provider that had once belonged to her father and that her mother was currently neglecting. It is this same role that causes her to volunteer as tribute when Prim's name is drawn for the Hunger Games.
10. Lucy and Linus Van Pelt
When I was a child, I read every Charlie Brown comic book I could get my hands on. Some of them went over my head, as Charles M. Schulz often used big words that I didn't yet know. I read the comics anyway, loving the drawings and the characters. Linus and Lucy Van Pelt were two of my favorites. They have a sometimes antagonistic relationship as is bound to happen when a pesky little brother and his friends come around all the time, bothering the big sister. Lucy is quick to put everyone in their place, even charging five cents for psychological advice. She is bossy to Linus, berates him for carrying around "that stupid blanket," and rolls her eyes in disgust at many of his antics. But at the end of the day, Lucy looks out for Linus. In the middle of the night, she brings him inside from the pumpkin patch and puts him to bed. And Linus is sweet to his sister and quick to remind her to count her blessings, one of which is "a little brother who loves you.” Yep. That about sums up the sister and brother dynamic right there. Well done, Mr. Schulz.
Did I miss one of your top literary siblings? Share yours in the comments.