In March, we introduced a new service: the Reading Doctor. Read more about Dr Louise here. Send us your questions for her by emailing us: email@example.com
I had my book club today (Sunday) and one of our book club members has had a very stressful event happen so as a book group we decided we wanted to read something uplifting and fun for her to escape into.
What does the Reading Doctor recommend for us?
The traditional three act structure of narrative fiction consists of a set-up, followed by a conflict, and ending with a resolution; the conflict is the driver of the narrative and the necessary precursor to the ending. Those endings are, if not always happy, then usually tidy: with questions answered, mysteries solved and order restored.
But contemporary fiction has trended away from resolution, perhaps in the context of an increasingly chaotic, fractured and heterogeneous world. Much modern crime fiction, for instance, ends without a perpetrator being either caught or punished. Conflict and uncertainty thus dominate. Some readers find this to be unsatisfying.
Many prefer, instead, narrative certainty and a happy ending, especially in uncertain and upsetting times. For you, these books may offer a more pleasing reading experience:
· Two people in mid-life unexpectedly find each other in Carrie Brown’s Lamb in Love, a gentle and very sweet romance set in a suitably picturesque English village.
· Marian Keyes writes funny bestselling novels which focus on great women and their wonderful friendships; she also writes essays which offer a lighter view of life’s idiosyncrasies, such as Making It Up as I Go Along.
· Dear Mrs Bird is a comic novel about an agony aunt in wartime London by A J Pearce.
· A disparate inner-city community comes together to save a local swimming pool in Libby Page’s novel, The Lido.
· The travel writing of Bill Bryson is both witty and compelling; he is a charming and knowledgeable guide with an endless series of amusing anecdotes, as in Down Under, his wry observations of Australian life, culture and amenities, and the lack thereof.
· In The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley, a green notebook circulates through six strangers, each writing the truth about themselves before leaving it for another to find and write in.
· A book which is all about restoration and resolution is The Keeper of Lost Things, by Ruth Hogan, in which an elderly man’s life’s work is to collect lost things and return them to their rightful owner.
· Empire Falls is essentially a story about a good man, and his family and community; Richard Russo’s narrative of an ordinary life is sympathetic, compassionate and moving.
· There’s a genre of writing by and about famous figures (who we can already be assured have happy and successful endings) of the overcome-great-obstacles/meet-great-challenges/achieve-great-things type: Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai are good examples.
· Telling the story of a small town in Georgia and its slightly peculiar inhabitants, Quite a Year for Plums is by Bailey White, a commentator on America’s National Public Radio.