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.
Alliterative Aspects of Accounting for Activities – by Rachel Noel
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