Sophie Hannah's new book, How to Hold a Grudge, defends the value of nursing resentments. Below, the prolific British poet, novelist, and author of three novels that continue Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series, lists her favorite grudges in literature.
A party hosted by a famous actress is interrupted by a suspicious death in one of Christie's finest Miss Marple novels. I don't want to give away any surprises, but it's safe to say that the grudge central to the plot stands out because of its unusual position in the narrative.
Don't worry, my choices aren't all going to be by Dame Agatha — though they easily could be. This novel, in which Hercule Poirot has to work out which passenger on a train stabbed the unsavory Samuel Ratchett, is arguably Christie's masterpiece. Once again, a grudge plays a prominent role. And the distinction between personal desire for vengeance and the demands of justice are brilliantly blurred.
Mice by Gordon Reece (2010).
In this gripping novel about a bullied schoolgirl named Shelley, the reader soon shares all of the protagonist's grudges. Then an intruder breaks into Shelley's home, and she decides it's time to stop being a victim. Reece's jewel of a thriller left me breathless — and proud to be a grudge-holder.
In the funniest novel I've ever read, a junior academic refuses to accept reality: that after graduating from Cambridge the only job he could secure for himself was at the terrible Wrottesley Polytechnic. He does battle with that reality in every way he can, with hilarious results.
You could be forgiven, after reading Brontë's fascinating, perfect novel, for thinking that Yorkshire, England, could dispense with electricity and run on grudge power alone. Heathcliff doesn't respond to his justifiable resentments in the most enlightened way, but that doesn't make me love the novel any less.
Millay can be scathing, grudge-y, and acerbic when she wants to be, as many of these sonnets reveal. My favorite contains one of the most cutting couplets in poetic history: "Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that. / I never again shall tell you what I think."