I’m reading a book called the “Beekeeper’s Apprentice.” It’s about a 15-year-old English girl, recently orphaned, well-to-do, and living with a creepy aunt in the English countryside around 1915. On one of her lonely long walks she encounters a retired Sherlock Holmes. They become fast friends. I’m only a couple of chapters in, so I don’t know the rest. I knew the premise before I started reading.
I realized as I read the beginning that I was secretly concerned that the first person narrator (the girl) would turn out to be an under-achiever, a female incarnation of Dr. Watson, doggedly trying to keep up with Sherlock’s brilliance. A minor sidekick.
I was wrong. Turns out she’s as bright as dear Holmes, and though young, clearly his equal in IQ points. Phew, I thought. Now I can like her.
Then I stopped. Do I always demand that I like and admire the main character? That’s my question for you. Must the hero be heroic for us to enjoy the story? How many shortcomings can we tolerate? Clearly, no one is heroic from A to Z, but is there a reader’s urge here that we, as writers, need to understand?
What do you think?