How Novels Work

How Novels Work

3.61 (281 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Never has contemporary fiction been more widely discussed and passionately analysed; recent years have seen a huge growth in the number of reading groups and in the interest of a non-academic readership in the discussion of how novels work. Drawing on his weekly Guardian column, 'Elements of Fiction', John Mullan examines novels mostly of the last ten years, many of which have become firm favourites with reading groups. He reveals the rich resources of novelistic technique, setting recent fiction alongside classics of the past. Nick Hornby's adoption of a female narrator is compared to Daniel Defoe's; Ian McEwan's use of weather is set against Austen's and Hardy's; Carole Shield's chapter divisions are likened to Fanny Burney's. Each section shows how some basic element of fiction is used. Some topics (like plot, dialogue, or location) will appear familiar to most novel readers; others (metanarrative, prolepsis, amplification) will open readers' eyes to new ways of understanding and appreciatingshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 358 pages
  • 142 x 216 x 26mm | 439.99g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0199281777
  • 9780199281770
  • 559,939

Review quote

A wealth of sharp mini-essays. * The Guardian (Review) * Ever insightful critiques...wholly satisfying, and a great education for book-lovers and would-be novelists alike... Mullan is willing to go where other academics do not usually deign to tread. * Susan Elderkin, The Financial Times * Expanding on his popular Guardian column, and focusing on a set of key novels, How Novels Work [mullan] aims to explain to the interested 'non-academic' reader critical approaches, particularly 'matters of form', which are normally considered the perserve of academia...the text is rich in critical and literary-historical insights...critical readings which...[are], above all, communicated in plain English. * Beth Lynch, TLS *show more

About John Mullan

John Mullan is Professor of English at University College London. He is the author of Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century (OUP) and co-editor of Eighteenth-Century Popular Culture: An Anthology (OUP). He has edited several works by Daniel Defoe and has written widely on eighteenth-century fiction. A broadcaster and journalist as well as an academic, he writes a weekly column on contemporary fiction for the Guardian.show more

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Beginning ; 2. Narrating ; 3. People ; 4. Genre ; 5. Voices ; 6. Structure ; 7. Detail ; 8. Style ; 9. Devices ; 10. Literariness ; 11. Endingshow more

Review Text

Expanding on his popular Guardian column, and focusing on a set of key novels, How Novels Work [mullan] aims to explain to the interested 'non-academic' reader critical approaches, particularly 'matters of form', which are normally considered the perserve of academia...the text is rich in critical and literary-historical insights...critical readings which...[are], above all, communicated in plain English. Beth Lynch, TLSshow more

Rating details

281 ratings
3.61 out of 5 stars
5 19% (52)
4 36% (102)
3 35% (98)
2 9% (25)
1 1% (4)

Our customer reviews

The astonishing popularity of reading groups, and their recent rise as staple social event for the book-reading middle classes, has meant that publishers are falling over themselves to direct their wares towards them. Additional, meta-textual information (like author interviews, plot syposes and/or sample questions to get one thinking about the text in new ways) is now regularly appended to novels and books to help book-clubbers gain the werewithal to fully participate in the informed literary gossiping of their gatherings. John Mullan's popular <em>Elements of Fiction</em> column in the Guardian newspaper, where each week he looks at the building blocks of a modern, popular novel, is further proof that analysis and close-reading is a skill many voracious readers want to learn. In <a href="http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/WEBSITE/WWW/WEBPAGES/showbook.php?id=0199281777">How Novels Work</a>, a book resolutely aimed at the reading group market, but which deserves wider readership still, Mullan has reorganised and embellished the material from his newspaper column and set out wonderfully concise explanations of beginnings and endings, genre and style, narration and structure, and the like. He also does a good job untangling other devices such as metanarrative, prolepsis and amplification. Whilst one might argue with Mullan's reduction of the novel to the elements he describes -- novels are capacious beasts and being neat about them is always dangerous -- and with the modern canon with which he mostly concerns himself, to do so would be to be quite grudgingly pedantic. Despite occasional unevenness, <a href="http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/WEBSITE/WWW/WEBPAGES/showbook.php?id=0199281777">How Novels Work</a> is a great introduction to, well, how novels work!show more
by Mark Thwaite
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