Over the weekend, I finished reading and scoring the fifth of my five novels for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards 2016. It was a bit of bad luck for the author that I did an in-depth study of a degenerative disease for an assignment at uni, and she’d chosen to afflict her heroine with the very same genetic illness. She’d obviously done some research, but perhaps not enough – however, does fiction have to be 100% factual, if you see what I mean?
I think not. Authors of fiction are basically taking the place of the storytellers of yesteryear who, without the dubious benefit of Wikipedia to check their every fact, probably made it up as they went along. And why not? A good novel will grab the reader’s interest from the first page, if not paragraph, its required function to transport imaginations to another place, time, dimension, culture, whatever – pure escapism and entertainment, and if there’s a bit of thought-provoking going on in the background, great. The reader can identify with, root for, or disapprove of the characters manufactured by the writer and accept or reject the plot, however unlikely it may be – it is their choice whether to suspend reality and go with the flow, or give up on the book as a waste of time, or even an insult to their intelligence.
Enjoyment of all genres of fiction is a very subjective thing, as it is with art, music, fashion, sport and a whole host of other stuff – just as well, as it wouldn’t do for us all to be identical in our tastes. How boring that would be …
The fifth book was in the ‘epic’ romance category, which struck me as a strange label. It was really no more epic than the humorous, contemporary or historical novels I read for the RNA. It was a basic tale of boy meets girl, who tries to keep her distance because she fears that the remission of five years that she has enjoyed from her illness is coming to an end. The action is set in and around Sydney, Australia and they are both high-flyers. Ergo, money not a problem, which is always handy.
As I understand it, in an epic novel, poem, film or other art form, there are themes of grandeur and heroism. I’m thinking Gone With the Wind, Tolkien, Tolstoy – maybe even Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. But what do I know? I’ve always thought the term ‘literary novel’ to be slightly bizarre – what does that make other books? Illiterate? It smacks slightly of Emperor’s New Clothes and elitism – suggesting we peasants are not worthy if we can’t handle obtuse, rambling prose and words with seventeen syllables. Well, I wrote a thesis on Jean Jacques Rousseau and trust me; you don’t get much more obtuse and rambling than The Social Contract, 1762. And I read psychology and sociology – both shored up by words with at least seventeen syllables, usually made up by dodgy-looking men with beards. Phenomenology anyone? And that’s one of the easier terms to get your tonsils around …
Right, I’m off to download something to suit my stunted intellect – preferably with words of one syllable. And pictures, just in case.
Oh, by the way, if anyone fancies a free download of a definitely-not-epic ebook, you need venture no further than