Fictional Dinner Guests

Hands holding wineglasses
Susanna here, with re-faced apologies for her tardiness. It was my son's first day back at school today and in the mad rush of packing lunch and organizing backpacks and readjusting to getting up early, I completely forgot it was my day to post, and am only just now getting round to it.

So I thought I'd do something quick and fun, for a change.

While I was sorting through my files recently, trying to organize things, I came across an old interview in which I was asked, among other things,

If you were having a dinner party, and you could invite six characters (other than yours) to attend, who would you pick?


WomaninwhiteI remember finding that an incredibly difficult question to answer—I love so many characters, it was almost impossible to narrow down the list to only six. I could have filled a ballroom, even when I tried restricting it to characters from books written by authors who are no longer living.

Here are the six I chose then, with my reasons why:

Marian Halcombe, from Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, because she was such a resourceful and wonderful character and I always thought Walter was an idiot for preferring the beautiful but vacuous Laura to Marian.

Trustee from the toolroomKeith Stewart, the titular character of Nevil Shute’s book Trustee from the Toolroom, is one of those seemingly ordinary people who isn’t ordinary at all once you get to know him, and I’d love to hear him go on about his miniature mechanical creations.

Rilla Blythe (daughter of Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert Blythe) from L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside, has a tendency to speak before she thinks, which makes her fun and unpredictable and perfect for a dinner party.

Josh Canfield, the hero of Catherine Gaskin’s The File on Devlin, is both dashing and understated—a rare and attractive combination in my book—AND he’s both thoughtful and well-read, so he would definitely rate an invitation.

MachughElspeth Lamond, from Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas, has the proven ability to hold her own in any gathering, and possesses both a lively curiosity and an original mind.

And I’d round out the guest list with the charming Sir Julian Gale, father of the hero Max from Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic, who could regale us with endless witty tales of his life on the London stage.

* * * * *

That might have been an old interview, but all six of those characters would probably still be on my guest list today (and I'd still find it a wretchedly difficult question).

Now…who would YOU bring to the party?

 

60 thoughts on “Fictional Dinner Guests”

  1. Susanna, I get that dinner party question also (I imagine most writers do), and I HATE it! My mind doesn’t work in a way that will answer this without spending months. But it’s a good list you have, and I’m with you on TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOL ROOM. I need to find a copy to reread….

    Reply
  2. Susanna, I get that dinner party question also (I imagine most writers do), and I HATE it! My mind doesn’t work in a way that will answer this without spending months. But it’s a good list you have, and I’m with you on TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOL ROOM. I need to find a copy to reread….

    Reply
  3. Susanna, I get that dinner party question also (I imagine most writers do), and I HATE it! My mind doesn’t work in a way that will answer this without spending months. But it’s a good list you have, and I’m with you on TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOL ROOM. I need to find a copy to reread….

    Reply
  4. Susanna, I get that dinner party question also (I imagine most writers do), and I HATE it! My mind doesn’t work in a way that will answer this without spending months. But it’s a good list you have, and I’m with you on TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOL ROOM. I need to find a copy to reread….

    Reply
  5. Susanna, I get that dinner party question also (I imagine most writers do), and I HATE it! My mind doesn’t work in a way that will answer this without spending months. But it’s a good list you have, and I’m with you on TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOL ROOM. I need to find a copy to reread….

    Reply
  6. I don’t want to throw a dinner party; I’m much too lazy for that, and anyway, nobody wants to eat what I eat except me.
    Instead I’d rather be a guest myself – at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca, or Heininger’s Brasserie in Paris, or at the Mos Eiseley Canteen 🙂

    Reply
  7. I don’t want to throw a dinner party; I’m much too lazy for that, and anyway, nobody wants to eat what I eat except me.
    Instead I’d rather be a guest myself – at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca, or Heininger’s Brasserie in Paris, or at the Mos Eiseley Canteen 🙂

    Reply
  8. I don’t want to throw a dinner party; I’m much too lazy for that, and anyway, nobody wants to eat what I eat except me.
    Instead I’d rather be a guest myself – at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca, or Heininger’s Brasserie in Paris, or at the Mos Eiseley Canteen 🙂

    Reply
  9. I don’t want to throw a dinner party; I’m much too lazy for that, and anyway, nobody wants to eat what I eat except me.
    Instead I’d rather be a guest myself – at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca, or Heininger’s Brasserie in Paris, or at the Mos Eiseley Canteen 🙂

    Reply
  10. I don’t want to throw a dinner party; I’m much too lazy for that, and anyway, nobody wants to eat what I eat except me.
    Instead I’d rather be a guest myself – at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca, or Heininger’s Brasserie in Paris, or at the Mos Eiseley Canteen 🙂

    Reply
  11. Liz, I’d be afraid to eat or drink anything with Flavia de Luce and Miss Marple both at the table–a sure sign someone was going to wind up getting murdered, and with my luck, it would probably be me 🙂

    Reply
  12. Liz, I’d be afraid to eat or drink anything with Flavia de Luce and Miss Marple both at the table–a sure sign someone was going to wind up getting murdered, and with my luck, it would probably be me 🙂

    Reply
  13. Liz, I’d be afraid to eat or drink anything with Flavia de Luce and Miss Marple both at the table–a sure sign someone was going to wind up getting murdered, and with my luck, it would probably be me 🙂

    Reply
  14. Liz, I’d be afraid to eat or drink anything with Flavia de Luce and Miss Marple both at the table–a sure sign someone was going to wind up getting murdered, and with my luck, it would probably be me 🙂

    Reply
  15. Liz, I’d be afraid to eat or drink anything with Flavia de Luce and Miss Marple both at the table–a sure sign someone was going to wind up getting murdered, and with my luck, it would probably be me 🙂

    Reply
  16. I actually found this a simple exercise! I would have Marian Chesney’s two old-maid sisters and their erstwhile bumbling suitors, plus any pairing of their “difficult daughter” charges and the matching stiff-upper-lip gentleman who eventually succumbs to the chaos of their strangely “good ton” world. I can’t think of a more entertaining assemblage of characters. To fill out the table and have someone to enjoy the show with, I’d add Georgette Heyer’s Unknown Ajax, one of my all-time favorite heroes. I know that makes eight, including me, but we mustn’t have uneven numbers, after all.

    Reply
  17. I actually found this a simple exercise! I would have Marian Chesney’s two old-maid sisters and their erstwhile bumbling suitors, plus any pairing of their “difficult daughter” charges and the matching stiff-upper-lip gentleman who eventually succumbs to the chaos of their strangely “good ton” world. I can’t think of a more entertaining assemblage of characters. To fill out the table and have someone to enjoy the show with, I’d add Georgette Heyer’s Unknown Ajax, one of my all-time favorite heroes. I know that makes eight, including me, but we mustn’t have uneven numbers, after all.

    Reply
  18. I actually found this a simple exercise! I would have Marian Chesney’s two old-maid sisters and their erstwhile bumbling suitors, plus any pairing of their “difficult daughter” charges and the matching stiff-upper-lip gentleman who eventually succumbs to the chaos of their strangely “good ton” world. I can’t think of a more entertaining assemblage of characters. To fill out the table and have someone to enjoy the show with, I’d add Georgette Heyer’s Unknown Ajax, one of my all-time favorite heroes. I know that makes eight, including me, but we mustn’t have uneven numbers, after all.

    Reply
  19. I actually found this a simple exercise! I would have Marian Chesney’s two old-maid sisters and their erstwhile bumbling suitors, plus any pairing of their “difficult daughter” charges and the matching stiff-upper-lip gentleman who eventually succumbs to the chaos of their strangely “good ton” world. I can’t think of a more entertaining assemblage of characters. To fill out the table and have someone to enjoy the show with, I’d add Georgette Heyer’s Unknown Ajax, one of my all-time favorite heroes. I know that makes eight, including me, but we mustn’t have uneven numbers, after all.

    Reply
  20. I actually found this a simple exercise! I would have Marian Chesney’s two old-maid sisters and their erstwhile bumbling suitors, plus any pairing of their “difficult daughter” charges and the matching stiff-upper-lip gentleman who eventually succumbs to the chaos of their strangely “good ton” world. I can’t think of a more entertaining assemblage of characters. To fill out the table and have someone to enjoy the show with, I’d add Georgette Heyer’s Unknown Ajax, one of my all-time favorite heroes. I know that makes eight, including me, but we mustn’t have uneven numbers, after all.

    Reply
  21. Susanna – I don’t know if I can come up with six people. In any case, I’d start with Jo March from Little Women. She was a major influence on the way I make up stories when I write. I continually changed the ending of Little Women, so she would end up with Laurie. I would also want to sit near Charity Selborne, the widowed heroine of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? I’ve never personally been to Provence, but I’ll wager I could give you a walking tour. I’ve read the book numerous times; I wore out at least one copy. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the very splendid dinner she has with Richard. I would also like to have dinner with The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. In addition to being (eventually) a genial host, he often has a magnificent library. I’d also want to have dinner with Mercy Dane, the heroine of Sharon Sala’s A Piece of my Heart. She’s a really kick-ass woman who also is a fantastic baker. (Great biscuits) For the sixth person at the table, I’d chose a tortured hero from an historical romance. E.g. Mary Jo’s Reggie, from The Rake or St. Just, from Grace Burrowes’ The Soldier.

    Reply
  22. Susanna – I don’t know if I can come up with six people. In any case, I’d start with Jo March from Little Women. She was a major influence on the way I make up stories when I write. I continually changed the ending of Little Women, so she would end up with Laurie. I would also want to sit near Charity Selborne, the widowed heroine of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? I’ve never personally been to Provence, but I’ll wager I could give you a walking tour. I’ve read the book numerous times; I wore out at least one copy. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the very splendid dinner she has with Richard. I would also like to have dinner with The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. In addition to being (eventually) a genial host, he often has a magnificent library. I’d also want to have dinner with Mercy Dane, the heroine of Sharon Sala’s A Piece of my Heart. She’s a really kick-ass woman who also is a fantastic baker. (Great biscuits) For the sixth person at the table, I’d chose a tortured hero from an historical romance. E.g. Mary Jo’s Reggie, from The Rake or St. Just, from Grace Burrowes’ The Soldier.

    Reply
  23. Susanna – I don’t know if I can come up with six people. In any case, I’d start with Jo March from Little Women. She was a major influence on the way I make up stories when I write. I continually changed the ending of Little Women, so she would end up with Laurie. I would also want to sit near Charity Selborne, the widowed heroine of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? I’ve never personally been to Provence, but I’ll wager I could give you a walking tour. I’ve read the book numerous times; I wore out at least one copy. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the very splendid dinner she has with Richard. I would also like to have dinner with The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. In addition to being (eventually) a genial host, he often has a magnificent library. I’d also want to have dinner with Mercy Dane, the heroine of Sharon Sala’s A Piece of my Heart. She’s a really kick-ass woman who also is a fantastic baker. (Great biscuits) For the sixth person at the table, I’d chose a tortured hero from an historical romance. E.g. Mary Jo’s Reggie, from The Rake or St. Just, from Grace Burrowes’ The Soldier.

    Reply
  24. Susanna – I don’t know if I can come up with six people. In any case, I’d start with Jo March from Little Women. She was a major influence on the way I make up stories when I write. I continually changed the ending of Little Women, so she would end up with Laurie. I would also want to sit near Charity Selborne, the widowed heroine of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? I’ve never personally been to Provence, but I’ll wager I could give you a walking tour. I’ve read the book numerous times; I wore out at least one copy. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the very splendid dinner she has with Richard. I would also like to have dinner with The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. In addition to being (eventually) a genial host, he often has a magnificent library. I’d also want to have dinner with Mercy Dane, the heroine of Sharon Sala’s A Piece of my Heart. She’s a really kick-ass woman who also is a fantastic baker. (Great biscuits) For the sixth person at the table, I’d chose a tortured hero from an historical romance. E.g. Mary Jo’s Reggie, from The Rake or St. Just, from Grace Burrowes’ The Soldier.

    Reply
  25. Susanna – I don’t know if I can come up with six people. In any case, I’d start with Jo March from Little Women. She was a major influence on the way I make up stories when I write. I continually changed the ending of Little Women, so she would end up with Laurie. I would also want to sit near Charity Selborne, the widowed heroine of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? I’ve never personally been to Provence, but I’ll wager I could give you a walking tour. I’ve read the book numerous times; I wore out at least one copy. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the very splendid dinner she has with Richard. I would also like to have dinner with The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. In addition to being (eventually) a genial host, he often has a magnificent library. I’d also want to have dinner with Mercy Dane, the heroine of Sharon Sala’s A Piece of my Heart. She’s a really kick-ass woman who also is a fantastic baker. (Great biscuits) For the sixth person at the table, I’d chose a tortured hero from an historical romance. E.g. Mary Jo’s Reggie, from The Rake or St. Just, from Grace Burrowes’ The Soldier.

    Reply
  26. Heh. I usually hate these questions, too, mostly because I never know what to say to people I don’t know, so why would I invite them? But anyway, I agree with Liz about Flavia de Luce — she rocks! Also Lord Peter Wimsey (who would be completely willing to carry the conversation in my stead) and Harriet Vane. Also I would like to have Nancy and Peggy Blackett from the Swallows and Amazon series by Arthur Ransome. As a child, I idolized Nancy, because she was so bold. 🙂

    Reply
  27. Heh. I usually hate these questions, too, mostly because I never know what to say to people I don’t know, so why would I invite them? But anyway, I agree with Liz about Flavia de Luce — she rocks! Also Lord Peter Wimsey (who would be completely willing to carry the conversation in my stead) and Harriet Vane. Also I would like to have Nancy and Peggy Blackett from the Swallows and Amazon series by Arthur Ransome. As a child, I idolized Nancy, because she was so bold. 🙂

    Reply
  28. Heh. I usually hate these questions, too, mostly because I never know what to say to people I don’t know, so why would I invite them? But anyway, I agree with Liz about Flavia de Luce — she rocks! Also Lord Peter Wimsey (who would be completely willing to carry the conversation in my stead) and Harriet Vane. Also I would like to have Nancy and Peggy Blackett from the Swallows and Amazon series by Arthur Ransome. As a child, I idolized Nancy, because she was so bold. 🙂

    Reply
  29. Heh. I usually hate these questions, too, mostly because I never know what to say to people I don’t know, so why would I invite them? But anyway, I agree with Liz about Flavia de Luce — she rocks! Also Lord Peter Wimsey (who would be completely willing to carry the conversation in my stead) and Harriet Vane. Also I would like to have Nancy and Peggy Blackett from the Swallows and Amazon series by Arthur Ransome. As a child, I idolized Nancy, because she was so bold. 🙂

    Reply
  30. Heh. I usually hate these questions, too, mostly because I never know what to say to people I don’t know, so why would I invite them? But anyway, I agree with Liz about Flavia de Luce — she rocks! Also Lord Peter Wimsey (who would be completely willing to carry the conversation in my stead) and Harriet Vane. Also I would like to have Nancy and Peggy Blackett from the Swallows and Amazon series by Arthur Ransome. As a child, I idolized Nancy, because she was so bold. 🙂

    Reply
  31. Some fascinating characters…yes to Sir Julian Gale. Yes to Mercy Dane – she really rocks. St. Just….yep.
    Unknown Ajax – he would be fun to have at a dinner party.
    Keith from Trustee of the Tool Room is a great choice.
    I need two more women to round out my dinner party. Hmm…I’ll have to think about this.

    Reply
  32. Some fascinating characters…yes to Sir Julian Gale. Yes to Mercy Dane – she really rocks. St. Just….yep.
    Unknown Ajax – he would be fun to have at a dinner party.
    Keith from Trustee of the Tool Room is a great choice.
    I need two more women to round out my dinner party. Hmm…I’ll have to think about this.

    Reply
  33. Some fascinating characters…yes to Sir Julian Gale. Yes to Mercy Dane – she really rocks. St. Just….yep.
    Unknown Ajax – he would be fun to have at a dinner party.
    Keith from Trustee of the Tool Room is a great choice.
    I need two more women to round out my dinner party. Hmm…I’ll have to think about this.

    Reply
  34. Some fascinating characters…yes to Sir Julian Gale. Yes to Mercy Dane – she really rocks. St. Just….yep.
    Unknown Ajax – he would be fun to have at a dinner party.
    Keith from Trustee of the Tool Room is a great choice.
    I need two more women to round out my dinner party. Hmm…I’ll have to think about this.

    Reply
  35. Some fascinating characters…yes to Sir Julian Gale. Yes to Mercy Dane – she really rocks. St. Just….yep.
    Unknown Ajax – he would be fun to have at a dinner party.
    Keith from Trustee of the Tool Room is a great choice.
    I need two more women to round out my dinner party. Hmm…I’ll have to think about this.

    Reply

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