Thursday, May 30, 2013

Armchair BEA ~ Literary Fiction

Design credit:
Sarah of Puss Reboots
Hello, my fellow armchair folk.  Today's topic for Armchair BEA is Literary Fiction, which I may have accidentally covered yesterday.  Oops!  Oh well, that's okay, seeing as how literary fiction is my true love.  Yes, I read and enjoy genre fiction, but literary fiction is what I am drawn to and probably what I read the most of unless, maybe, you count the books in a series individually, which I don't because doing so would skew things.  So yes, today I will keep my discussion short, since I went over this all yesterday, and then jump into some recommendations.

I was thinking more about the distinction I drew between literary and genre fiction yesterday.  I argued that while In the Woods has some very literary components, like character development and skillful writing, it falls more neatly into the genre fiction category.  The story's impetus comes from murder and detective work and ultimately it is a thriller.  Then, I thought of Bel Canto, which is about ostensibly about a bunch of diplomats who are taken hostage in a South American country.  This seems like it would fall into one of multiple genre categories - it could be a mystery or thriller, and it could also be historical fiction, as it is very loosely based on real events.  However, this story is driven by character and relationship development rather than the intrigue of the events, and, for me, was made by the beautiful, lyrical writing.  While the plot was important, it took a back seat to the writing, which probably would have been just as gorgeous if it had been describing the contents of a dirty toilet.  There's a plot for those who need a plot (my mother, who exclusively reads genre fiction, actually enjoyed this) but it's so much more than that.  A great crossover, but firmly on the side of literary, in my opinion.  That said, here are my recommendations for some literary reads (and you can find many more on my books page):



The Edible Woman was the first book of one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood, who often straddles the line between genre and literary fiction.  This book is pretty firmly on the side of literary though - it's about a woman who is engaged and suddenly finds herself unable to meat, then vegetables, then nothing at all.  Bizarre but intriguing.

Possession is difficult to get into at first, but well worth the effort in the end.  It's about present-day academics who discover letters between some long-dead poets and attempt to piece together their previously unknown relationship.  The novel incorporates prose, letters, diaries, and poetry.


Cold Mountain is a wonderful novel about a man and a woman who love each other but are separated by the Civil War and are trying to get back to one another.  The writing is just beautiful and the descriptions are vivid.

The Cider House Rules tells the story of a doctor who runs an orphanage/abortion clinic and spans generations.  It is epic in scope and will really make you think, and maybe even reevaluate some of your own preconceptions.


Bel Canto, as I mentioned above, is about diplomats who are taken hostage, but is so much more than that.  Read this for the beautiful writing, if nothing else.

Beautiful Ruins weaves together several story lines from multiple points in time.  At times satirical, the existential themes will have you thinking about things in a different way than you usually do.  And the writing is excellent.

What are some of your favorite literary novels?  I'd love to get your recommendations!

12 comments:

  1. It's good to see that Possession is worth it, because that is one scary book! I have The Children's Book, I plan on trying that one first.

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    1. I warn you, it too me a WHILE to get into it but once I did, I was totally hooked!

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    2. I actually LOVED Posession and could not stand The Children's Book; so if you don't like your first Byatt, try Posession anyway :)

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  2. John Irving was also recommended to me yesterday, a sign! I LOVE Ann Patchett

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    1. I'm starting another Patchett novel tonight...I can't wait!

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  3. I read Bel Canto for a book club and remember nothing of it except that I thought it would never end. I need to read John Irving sometime. There are such glowing reviews of his books...especially the older ones.

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    1. I've only read Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany... there's so much left to experience!

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  4. Yeah!! Another literary fiction lover. Pleased to me you. And great list by the way.
    tanya

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  5. I loved Possession when I read it years ago. Also Cold Mountain. I never read Cider House Rules. I read a number of earlier John Irving books and didn't care for him. I'm one of few who feel that way I think. I think my favorite literary fiction of the past year was Cloud Atlas which has so many genres in it.

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  6. I haven't read any of these but a lot of them look really interesting! I'm going to bookmark this post so I can add some to my TBR later! Thanks for sharing!

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