#MondayBlogs What Makes a Great Novel? #Amreading #Amwriting #Amreviewing

If a formula existed for a great novel, everyone would benefit. Authors would write perfect novels and readers would never be disappointed.

So, what makes a great novel? My answer is connection and intimacy.

Writers need to connect with their readers and readers are on the lookout for authors whose stories invade their hearts and minds (intimacy) and become meaningful (connection).

A reader’s response to a novel is personal, intellectual, intimate and complex.

Novels speak to the readers’ minds, that hidden, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, darkest, sometimes unpredictable, elusive part of our brains that surprises each one of us, more times than we’d care to admit.

Readers want to be immersed in a story, transported and moved. They want to feel what the characters feel, understand their predicaments as if they were working with the author.

Writers want readers to be active participants in the narrative, reliving their character’s experiences and reinterpreting their stories. As Stephen King has said, “All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies…’

Readers enjoy finding themselves in the story, with the characters. That’s the moment all writers and readers crave; the moment the reader becomes actively, emotionally and intellectually involved in the story.

A colloquial expression might be that the novel gets under their skin, but where it really gets is inside their minds; that’s what makes a great novel.

So, how do writers find their way into the minds of people they don’t even know?

The answer is as simple as it is complex: writing about universal themes, feelings and events which are (and have always been) common to all of us.

That’s one of the reasons why Shakespeare will never be outdated.

Image result for shakespeare universal themes

Great novels don’t have to be about extraordinary people or wondrous events. Great novels are about feelings we have all experienced or witnessed, such as love, anger, jealousy, greed, happiness, optimism, depression, and universal events such as falling in love, parenting, sibling rivalry, sickness, death, earning a living, quarrelling, making friends, travelling, etc.

Great novels make readers feel something beyond themselves and the scope of their ordinary lives.

Great novels reach their minds, taking them on an unknown journey of self-discovery. Readers become part of the story, because they are involved with the characters and events, and when they finish reading, they are not the same person they were when they started reading, because they have changed their minds about something, or thought about something that had never occurred to them before, or felt something they hadn’t felt before or for a long time.

The challenge for both readers and writers is that one particular author will rarely be able to reach every reader’s mind, because of course all minds are different and no two readers will react in the same way to a novel, or even to different episodes and characters in a novel.

The good news is, there are so many types and genres of novels to be read and so many ways of reading, paperback, kindle and other e-books, and audio books, that it’s hard not to find something for everyone.

How to find a book that’s perfect for you?

It’s hard to get it wrong if you follow these three steps:

  • Read the blurb (writer and editor’s information and views).
  • Read a few varied reviews (diverse readers’ opinions).
  • Read the look inside pages (read the first chapters and decide whether to continue reading or not).

If you do so, it’s unlikely you’ll choose a book you won’t enjoy.

And when you finish, don’t forget to post a review, because it will help the author and other readers, too.

Are you looking for a great book? Here are some of the great books I’ve recently read:

Us

Us by David Nicholls. Themes: love, marriage, parenting, and contemporary life, from the perspective of a middle-aged Englishman. Poignant and humorous.

Eleanor Oliphant by Gale Honeyman. Themes: abuse, loneliness, serendipity, from the point of view of a young woman. Poignant, humorous, Feel good.

our house

Our House by Louise Candlish. Themes: marriage, infidelity, crime, parenting, told from two points of view, husband and wife of two young children. Family drama.

The Guest Room: A Novel by [Bohjalian, Chris]

The Guest Room Chris Bohjalion. Themes: marriage, infidelity, corruption, sex trafficking, narrated by an American husband and father and a Russian prostitute who is an illegal immigrant in the USA.

Missing You by [Coben, Harlan]

Don’t Let go by Harlan Coben. Themes: love, corruption, crime. A suspenseful thriller. This is his latest novel, but all of them are fabulous. Missing You is one of my favourites.

The Good Girl by Maria Rubrica. Themes, crime, kidnapping, family, love. A dark family drama, told from the point of view of the kidnapped daughter, before and after the event.

The Sister: A psychological thriller with a brilliant twist you won't see coming by [Jensen, Louise]

The Sister, by Louise Jensen is a suspenseful psychological thriller I enjoyed, but all her novels are great reads.

It Ends with Us: A Novel by [Hoover, Colleen]

It Ends With Us, by Colleen Hoover is a heartbreaking family drama about abusive relationships told in the first person by a young woman living in Boston.

The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorback is a unique and moving novel about survival, loneliness and serendipity, told from the point of view of a lawyer who attempts to help a homeless young woman on a freezing night.

Check out all my reviews on Amazon

But don’t take my word for it, what’s meaningful for me may be boring for you.

Follow the three steps (blurb, reviews, look inside) and find those great books you’re longing to read!

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What do you think makes a great book?

Would you like to tell me about a great book you’ve recently read?

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Us’ and ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls #BookReview #Amreviewing @Audible

Today on I’m reviewing One Day and US, contemporary literary fiction, written by David Nicholls.

I read ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls about eight years ago, when it first came out. It was before I started reviewing the books I read.

One Day by [Nicholls, David]

I loved everything about One Day, especially the way the plot was structured, taking one day every year for twenty years, starting on the day Dex and Em meet in their final year at Edinburgh University.

Those who haven’t seen read the book have probably seen the film, so although there may be few spoilers to disclose, I’ll just say that it’s not until the final devastating scene that we discover the importance of the day.

I cried at the end, at the injustice and absurdity of the ending, and the pain and loss of the characters I had come to know so well. Although they were both infuriating at times!

I know some readers thought it was slow and repetitive, and I agree that Dex and Em seemed to be going round in circles and taking one step forward in their lives and two steps backwards, for years, but unfortunately, such was the story of their lives.

I recently discovered that the author, David Nicholls had written another novel, which is humorous and poignant, so I decided to give it a go, and although I guessed it would be emotional, I wasn’t prepared for an even more devastating ending than One Day.      

Us: A Novel by [Nicholls, David]

When I finished listening to ‘Us’ on Audible, I was sitting in my garden, watching my grandson playing with his father, my son. They looked up in surprised as I rushed into the house, grabbed a tissue and ran upstairs.

’I’m OK,’ I managed to mumble on my way out. ‘I’ve just finished a novel’, and they carried on with their game, while I cried for a few minutes in the privacy of my bedroom, because it’s all right to cry at the end of a film, but it’s too personal to let people watch you cry when you finish reading a book.

Nobody dies at the end, although I thought they might. In fact it’s an optimistic, albeit not happy ending, in the traditional sense, but it’s very emotional.

US is a perceptive, sensitive and humorous account of the birth, life and death of a 25 -year- old relationship, told in the first person by Douglas, the husband. Douglas, Connie, his wife, and Albie, their son, are the main players in the story.

I found neither Connie nor Albie likeable. Mother and son were both selfish and I thought Connie also lacked integrity, but I’d have to include spoilers to explain why.

The family dynamics were unhealthy. Douglas’s relationship with his rebellious and artistic son was strained, and part of this strain was due to the mother and son tandem, which purposefully excluded Douglas. Consequently, it is when father and son are eventually alone that they are able to reach an understanding and mutual respect.

One of my favourite parts was the description of the family holiday around Europe, to France, Germany, Italy and Spain, especially the museums they visited and the people they met on the way. I’ve been to many of the places mentioned, and their descriptions and adventures brought back memories of my own trips.

US is a very perceptive, honest and realistic representation of contemporary family life. Many controversial issues, such as parenting, sex, drugs, the social and professional pressures of modern life, marriage, etc. are brought up.

I’m still trying to figure out why I was so upset at the end, because it is a hopeful ending of second chances and new beginnings, unfortunately, a new beginning, means there has to be an ending, too.

Overall, it’s much more optimistic, dynamic, and feel good than One Day, especially due to Douglas’s sense of humour and attitude.

US is also one of the best novels I’ve read so far  this year.

By the way, the narrator on Audible, David Haig, was fabulous. I really felt I was listening to Douglas tell me his story.

US buy link

UK buy link

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