Friday, 11 January 2008


AUTHOR: John Sutherland


DATE READ: January 2008

NOTES: Thought the title was a bit off-putting (of course I know how to read a novel!) but read it because I knew and liked John Sutherland’s writing. I was not disappointed. All the chapters are very short – sometimes too short, leaving me wanting more – but the book is filled with interesting information and quirky observations that left lots of ideas swirling around in my head.

It is virtually a history of the novel with lots of ideas and examples thrown in along the way. Didactic without being preachy or overly academic.

His reflections on historical fiction were particularly interesting. Do my ideas on Victorian England come from history books or from Eliot, Gaskell and Dickens? And have I learned about the depression years in USA from documentaries or from reading The Grapes of Wrath?

I disagree with him about hardback editions being the book of choice – I actually prefer paperbacks and only buy a hardback if I really can’t wait to read it in paperback. (But I am so pleased that he liked McEwan’s Saturday – I loved this book and am perplexed by the vicious negativity from some reviewers.)

My only criticism is that I would have preferred less about the physical aspects of books (fonts, covers etc) and more about the content. But John Sutherland has produced a witty, perceptive book brimming with ideas. If you like to read novels you will love this book.

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