Hi Reverse Readathoners,

This is Juli from ich lese. Hour 17 is midday Saturday for me and the perfect time to take a break and ponder what makes the ideal novel (confession: this is not the first time I am examining this issue).




Think back to your favorite book(s). … What general characteristics or elements of a story would describe that book? … Now, let’s narrow it down to three.



Ok, I’ll start. My all-time favorite book is The Perfume – Story of a Murderer, so I am making this my example of how I derived at my top three elements of my ideal novel. I read it for the first time in the 90s in Germany and have lost count how many times I’ve re-read it since (thus have had plenty of time to finetune this list). And yes, it holds up in English as well (totally plugging this book here as I believe everyone should read it).

Anyway, here is my list:

(1) language over plot

(2) feelings of strangeness, melancholy, or dread

(3) a character that pushes the human condition

The Perfume, to me, is truly a (1) language over plot novel.  I remember reading it and being able to smell all the described smells, words prompting my memories, smells I don’t think I had ever consciously smelled before. I was blown away in what detail and intricacy Patrick Süskind could even describe the most mundane odors like that of brick or a door hinge. Of course, many of the smells were unpleasant. Pair that with a plotline that could lead to murder and you have a novel that is just one big fat (2) feeling of weirdness, discomfort, and despair. And guys, I live for an eerie read! 18th century France was dirty and hopeless. The protagonist’s story is tragic and his acts are outrageous and vile. Yet, there are flickers of promise and light leaving the reader ever so slightly sanguine. … which brings me to my last point, (3) Grenouille constantly pushes the envelope and as he does so the reader gets forced to consider the boundaries of the human condition. How easy is it to slip into the cloak of a villain when you have never experienced kindness? How thin is the line between genius and madness? What would YOU do with a talent as absolute as Grenouille’s? 

Leave your ideal novel elements in the comments! I am so curious to see your answers. 

Happy reading, 



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11 thoughts on “Hour 17 – What is your ideal novel?

  1. For me what makes a good novel is:
    1) cohesive time jumps
    2) if the story deals with a family saga, i find too many members confuse me.
    3) a hard to predict plot twists that once is discovered, you think back to subtle hints throughout the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your ideal novel characteristics are really interesting!
    I’m not quite sure about mine but maybe these off the top of my head:
    1) Something to keep me wanting more. It doesn’t have to be a mystery or some kind of promised discovery. I just need something that hooks me. Whether it’s a fascinating character or a weird place that piques my interest.
    2) I agree with MommyinColor above who says that too many family members is confusing. I struggle with books that have too many names to keep track of!!
    3) Wit. I don’t need to laugh out loud but I like when a book has a tinge of wit.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a wonderful prompt! I haven’t thought of my favourite ingredients in a novel. This has inspired me to have a deep think:
    1. An academic setting, such as that in Stoner by John Williams, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I like that the characters exist in a safe haven where they can cultivate their intellect.
    2. Compelling motivations of the protagonist, so that I can fully understand why they choose their actions, and I am wholly invested in their development. I find this so much more gripping than a plot with plenty of actions or twists!
    3. Quiet, pervasive writing that flows like unseen currents in a stream: few things put me off like melodramatic writing that lacks substance, such as using new paragraphs mindlessly for a punch, or emphasising pointless character reactions. Power lies in thoughtful, masterful choice of words.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some paranormal elements
    First person point of view where I love the character
    A mystery that’s surprising but wraps up at the end
    Tension and suspense, at least one creepy moment
    A romance that’s not instant and that makes sense on the side with one steamy scene
    Intelligent writing with a few toss ins of genuine humor to break up stalemates
    Intirguing worldbuilding that isn’t info dump or too confusing
    If villain, have layered and not black and white motives

    Liked by 1 person

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