Wednesday reading experience #43

Read an epistolatory novel.

These are novels written as a series of documents, e.g. letters or e-mails, blog entries, historical documents, reports, reviews, excerpts from books, newspaper clippings and diary entries. Basically anything that is traditionally written or typed, used without any connecting passages to form a narrative. It enables the author to let the characters (or a chosen number of characters) express themselves directly without having a narrator tell the story.

I have already recommended reading fictional diaries, which form part of the epistolatory genre, so a different epistolatory form is recommended.

Here are some that I have enjoyed:
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Written as a series of accounts of the theft of a precious stone, using different styles and voices.
  • Letters to Alice, Upon first reading Jane Austen by Fay Weldon. What the title says, plus much more besides.
  • Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos. A novel told entirely in letters between the characters.
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. A correspondence between a young demon and his "uncle" Screwtape, a senior demon.
  • The Boy Next Door, Boy Meets Girl, and Every Boy's Got One, by Meg Cabot. These are frothy and fun romances, written as a series of e-mails between a number of people.
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. Written as a collection of letters, diary entries and other writings.
  • Daddy Long-Legs and Dear Enemy, by Jean Webster. Two entertaining romances told entirely in letters.
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Letters between two sisters that tell a heartbreaking but also eventually heartwarming story.

I didn’t particularly like this next one – I thought it could have done with some serious editing – but many loved it, so I think it’s worth a mention:
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

On my reading list I have:
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Pamela by Samuel Richardson
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy by Nick Bantock
  • The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
And here is a list with even more:
Wikipedia list of epistolatory novels


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