Saturday, 20 April 2013

Slow burners and literary fiction

I'm naturally an impatient person.  I struggle to read or write long novels.  I'm a slow reader so generally prefer a fast-paced read with plenty of dialogue and not too many long descriptions.  A story that pulls me in from the start and compels me to find out how it all ends.  If I get bored I tend to skim and flip to the end of the book to see if it is worth the effort.  I do that with films and TV programmes too.

However, recently, I've been savouring the delights of some slow burners.  The first was The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  

I was nearly halfway through the book before it grabbed me.  The pace was interminably slow, with endless, apparently unnecessary descriptions and little happening in the story.  Or so it seems.  I nearly gave up.  But how glad I am that I persevered!  The story uses the device of the unreliable narrator superbly and this has to be one of the cleverest constructions I've read in a very long time.  Like a dark, disturbing jigsaw puzzle, a mystery littered with clues that you simply can't spot the first time round.  As soon as I had finished I immediately went back to the beginning, hunting them out.  If you want to find out more I wrote a review for Goodreads   and it really got me thinking about the way I have limited myself in so many ways as a writer, how lacking in confidence I am of attempting such a feat.  If you write, then I urge you to read The Little Stranger to learn about the craft. 

I'm currently reading a totally different genre but another slow burner called Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (I referred to this in a previous post as far back as January 2012, which shows how long it has taken me to read it!).  It's a dark, funny satire set in a future chillingly similar to the present, where technology rules. (see my post  I have really struggled with the first half of the book, again because it takes its time and little (apparently) is happening but now I am halfway through, it has me hooked and I can't put it down.  I need to know where the journey ends. 

Encouraged by this experience I have been thinking about the idea of the slow burner and questioning my own reading preferences - and wondering if I would ever have the confidence to take on this kind of writing project.

Can you recommend any slow burning novels that were worth the wait?  And what did they teach you as a writer?

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  1. I have read quite a few slow burners and don't mind that type of book at all. Only problem is that because of that I rarely remember that a book has been a slow burner!
    You've certainly got me wanting to read that Sarah Walters book now, to see what I could learn about plot apart from anything else.
    One book that several reviewers say is slow burning and that I really enjoyed it Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela. (I've posted a review of it on Amazon and Goodreads.)

    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by and I will be checking out Lyrics Alley!