If you asked me what my favourite genre is I would probably tell you literary fiction. I sometimes feel that the genre gets a bad rap and that people think that it is pretentious or too complicated. It is also a confusing genre and it can be difficult to determine what counts as literary fiction and what doesn’t. That is why I was so excited to find this tag on Rachels blog, Pace, Amore, Libri.
1. How do you define literary fiction?
This is such a complicated question! For me, I know a literary fiction novel when I see one. The definition is a little bit fuzzy, but in my mind literary fiction is character-driven vs. plot-driven. They are often slow-paced and tackle complex themes. Many people see literary fiction as highbrow, which I believe does a disservice to both it and genre fiction. Both have so much merit! Sure, literary fiction can be complicated, but not always, and I think the term can scare readers from giving books they could potentially love a chance. A lot of genre fiction is also complex and tackles difficult themes! There are also some books that fall in to a more specific genre that I would consider more literary- it such a difficult thing to define in words.
2. Name a literary fiction novel with a brilliant character study.
There There by Tommy Orange
There There follows many different characters with many different personalities and life circumstances who all find themselves attending the same Powwow. We learn about each of their pasts and what brought them to this very moment. It is compelling look at what it means to be Native American in a modern age. Each of the characters has their own struggles and the reader comes to know each and every one of them as individuals by the end of the novel. It makes what happens and the choices the certain characters make that much more gut-wrenching.
3. Name a literary fiction novel that has experimental or unique writing.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
There is something so special about the way that Women Talking is written. The novel, which takes place over the course of two days, is based on actual events that occurred in a Mennonite community. It is a book that gives a voice to the voiceless. Reading it feels as though you are part of the conversation, that you are one of the Mennonite women who has world has been turned upside and that you must come to a decision- whether to fight, stay, or leave. It feels so personal and made me emotional in a way no other book has- I think that it has a lot to do with how it is written.
4. Name a literary fiction novel with an interesting structure.
Lanny by Max Porter
It is hard to explain just how Lanny is formatted and structured. I highly recommend downloading a sample chapter from Amazon or Goodreads. You will instantly get an idea of what I am talking about. The story is set in a small town where a young boy goes missing. There is something, or should I saw someone, sinister that may be to blame. The reader hears from this creatures perspective and the way in which those passages are written is unique and adds to the creepiness of the story. It is just brilliant!
5. Name a literary fiction novel that explores social themes.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Immigration is such a hot topic these days, and I think that everyone would benefit from reading Exit West. It is an interesting look at what it means to be a refugee- never feeling like you have a place in the world. The story follows one particular couple, so their experience and feelings will not be universal, but I think that the novels sheds an important light on the issue- it brings some humanity to the conversation.
6. Name a literary fiction novel that explores the human condition.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
On the surface Normal People seems like a simple story about a couple navigating the ups and downs of their relationship, but it ends up being so much more than that. There is something so real about this story and I think many readers will see themselves reflected in these characters. I have never read such an honest look at what it means to be in a relationship. I know I am not the only one who can relate to the notion of being with someone who is both and the right person and the wrong person at the same time.
7. Name a brilliant literary-hybrid genre novel.
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
Bitter Orange has become one of my favourite novels of all time, and big reason for that is because it manages to crossover so many genres and it does it so seamlessly. It is definitely literary fiction, but it is also historical fiction (set in 1969) and a mystery. There is sinister air throughout the entire novel that is so brilliantly executed. The small reveals as the story progress kept me turning the pages.
8. What genre do you wish was mixed with literary fiction more?
I have come to the realization that I adore magical realism, especially if it is found within a work of literary fiction. In fact, two of the novels that I spoke about in this tag are what I would consider to be magical realism- Exit West and Lanny. I am also on the lookout for books like this so any recommendations you have would be highly appreciated!
If you are a fan of literary fiction, I would love to see your answers. I would be curious to know what other people’s definition of literary fiction would be- it is a term that I struggle to define myself!