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Properly literary fiction vs just fiction

(113 Posts)
Myrobalanna Thu 13-Apr-17 19:06:11

I mean great writing AND great plotting AND great characters AND inspirational use of language AND a certain take on the world...does it still exist? I keep reading reviews, buying a book I think will be fantastic, and there's just nothing to it.

Would really love some recommendations for recent, 'proper books' - not that I don't enjoy the others but I want something amazing!

lucydogz Thu 13-Apr-17 19:25:06

How recent is recent? The only book I can suggest is Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. I'm sure there's good modern books out there, but most seem to be too miserable for me and I go back to Colette, Tolstoy etc

KikiDeliversCakes Thu 13-Apr-17 19:33:48

I'll be watching this thread with interest for some inspiration too.

For me, the most recent amazing book I've read was "A Little Life" - not sure about a great plot, but certainly for me it has great writing, characters, language and take on the world.

Personally, only Anita Brookner books have checked all those criteria for me. Otherwise it's back to the classics...

TheTurnOfTheScrew Thu 13-Apr-17 19:39:54

I enjoyed Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift, and The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Both very short, nostalgic and bittersweet. Or The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I think it probably counts as sci-go, which I'm not keen on, but Ioved it.

lucydogz Thu 13-Apr-17 19:54:03

I'd forgotten - No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy and The Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx. Both fulfill all the categories!

Pallisers Thu 13-Apr-17 19:55:07

Any of the Kate Atkinsons.

southeastdweller Thu 13-Apr-17 21:27:15

I feel like I'm always recommending it here, but The Goldfinch fits all of that criteria you mention.

Floisme Fri 14-Apr-17 10:04:58

Not that recent but I'd nominate Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Pallisers Fri 14-Apr-17 12:27:46

Not that recent but I'd nominate Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Agreed. One of the best books I have read ever.

PatSajack Fri 14-Apr-17 12:49:08

I agree with "A Little Life". It was breathtaking.

tobee Fri 14-Apr-17 15:24:23

Personally I think reviews can be very misleading. It often feels as though the reviewer has fallen for the publisher's hype. I'm not sure what the best way to work out what's worth reading. Other than from on here. smile. There's also often a fashion, "everybody's reading this so you should too!" in newspapers, word of mouth etc. this is the author/type of book for the zeitgeist. Then you find it's the emperor's new clothes. The downside to reading contemporary fiction is it hasn't stood the test of time. But I'd hate to not try new writing.

GeorgeHerbert Fri 14-Apr-17 17:04:31

David Mitchell - any of his books but particularly The Bone Clocks and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

pollyhemlock Fri 14-Apr-17 18:43:35

Try Moonglow by Michael Chabon. He has an amazing way with language. I love Kavalier and Clay by him as well.

annandale Fri 14-Apr-17 18:45:56

I'm reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing. I'm loving it so far. It got a rave review from DH.

Another vote for The Goldfinch.

Noeuf Fri 14-Apr-17 18:49:08

I read The Children's Act and was stunned at how different it was in terms of ability of the author. It made me realise how sludgy my reading has become.

pollyhemlock Fri 14-Apr-17 20:13:37

Do Not Say We Have Nothing is brilliant.

Myrobalanna Sat 15-Apr-17 19:02:54

Noeuf that's exactly how I feel. You read a book (personally I think the reviews given by papers are null because half the writers are all friends, or friends of friends - there's so much politics there) and you think, christ I could have written that. I want to read a book I could never have written because the prose is so good. Just for starters.

Taking notes of the ideas. I have read The Goldfinch (and loved it) though I wouldn't place it in the 'great writing' category - but I agree with tobee that it's harder when something hasn't had the chance to stand the test of time.

I've also remembered that I have never read any Margaret Atwood blush so there's a starting point!

NotCitrus Sat 15-Apr-17 19:20:13

I recommend Atwood. Also Pat Barker, and then maybe Barry Unsworth.

Noeuf Sun 16-Apr-17 13:22:59

Exactly that Myro. I'm a passable writer, have had some shorts published so I don't want to read rubbishy drivel. I want to read clever, thinking stuff.

Anne Tyler is usually very good, as is Jonathan Coe and Garrison Keelor (?)

I really would recommend The Childrens Act though, I couldn't read it fast enough

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Sun 16-Apr-17 13:36:05

Remains of the Day is one of the recent greats for me. I was also profoundly moved by A Thousand Splendid Suns and Half of a Yellow Sun. I couldn't put down We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves but I know that's a Marmite book on here.

I found The Virgin Suicides very readable as well.

onalongsabbatical Sun 16-Apr-17 13:37:10

David Mitchell, yes, any thing by Ian McEwan - The Children (not Children's - sorry, pedant alert!) Act was fab and I'm reading Sweet Tooth at the minute. There's so much, but I'm going to make one, big, fat recommendation, because since I discovered him a couple of years ago I think he surpasses almost everything else that everyone else has written. He's an American (don't be put off), called Richard Powers. Now, some people say he overwrites massively, and I can see why, but, for me, he really stretches the boundaries of what can be attempted in fiction, he's really into neuroscience and the brain and manages to bring it in in ways that feel completely natural. I must out myself as a retired psychotherapist and now a writer myself, and I never read rubbish - at least not in books, I spend enough time on Mumsnet and Facebook! Try Orfeo or The Echo Maker. He is seriously brilliant - and that's just my personal opinion, he's really not to everyone's taste and he's not always easy.

pollyhemlock Sun 16-Apr-17 14:28:35

I also love Sebastian Barry. He has a brilliant way with language. Try his most recent, Days Without End, but almost anything he writes is worth attention.

Steinbeck Sun 16-Apr-17 18:39:11

Following with interest...

timeforabrewnow Sun 16-Apr-17 18:48:38

Rohinton Mistry - A fine Balance

Utterly brilliant and enthralling. Beautifully written as well.

onalongsabbatical Sun 16-Apr-17 22:45:35

Rohinton Mistry is a delight! Anything by him.

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