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Rhetoretician -- Fiction etc.

Roxana Robinson's Reading List

Roxana Robinson's Reading List

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At the end of the Wesleyan Writers Conference last week, the novelist Roxana Robinson gave us a recommended reading list, commenting: "If you haven't read all of them already, I envy you your future." I haven't read all of them (or even most of them), but given that she was teaching us about how to reveal character through dialogue, description and action, I'm assuming that's what their main strength is.

Here's the list, alphabetical by author:

  • Barker, World War I Trilogy:

    • The Ghost Road

    • Regeneration

    • The Eye in the Door

  • Bowen, Death of the Heart

  • Coetzee, Disgrace

  • Chekhov, Short Stories

  • Cunningham, The Hours

  • Green, Loving

  • Hazzard, Transit of Venus

  • Mann, Budenbrucks

  • McEwan, Saturday

  • Munroe, Runaway

  • Roth,The Radetsky March

  • Sabold, The Emigrants

  • Schlink, The Reader

  • Schwartz,Disturbances in the Field

  • Scott, The Raj Quartet

  • Tolstoy, Anna Karennina

  • Trevor, Fools of Fortune

  • Updike, the Rabbit Quartet

  • I've only read The Raj Quartet and Saturday, though I did listen to an abridged version of The Hours on radio a few years ago. I really liked both the first two, though in some ways they couldn't be more different.

    The Raj Quartet is an enormous saga, in four volumes, covering events leading up to Indian independence. The first volume is focussed on one specific event and its consequences, and the last three, in different ways, follow the same trail. It's a great example of 'microcosm' fiction. One event in the lives of a handful of individuals becomes symbolic of the larger issues facing the whole nation. And yes, characterisation is certainly one of Scott's strengths.

    Saturday, by contrast tells the story of a single day in the life of one man, a surgeon living in London. I remember being so unable to put this book down that I took it with me when I went out one evening because I knew I wouldn't be able to think about anything else until I knew what happened next. I think McEwan is terrific at characterisation too, though what I most love about his books is the way he addresses huge themes through seemingly small events. This one makes you think about things like chance, fate, predestination and the interconnectedness of life.

    There are quite a lot of books on that list I haven't heard of, and a few I've been meaning to read.

    Edited at 2008-06-28 07:53 pm (UTC)
    • You intrigue me, Ros. I shall read these.

      I remember getting to a certain point in The Hours and actually gasping out loud, "Oh no!" You can probably guess which moment it was.
  • I was surprised to see "Transit of Venus" there as it is an Australian novel and Aussie novelists don't get read overseas nearly as often as they should be.

    I think this is more interesting than the meme going round as it's telling me what I should read rather than just a list of books I either have read or have no intention of reading. Of the ones I have read, I can definitely recommend Pat Barker's trilogy.
    • Thanks for the notes, Bel.

      I don't know about the portability of Australian novelists, but Roxana was, I think, trying to give examples of particular writing styles?
  • I've read Anna Karennina, three of the five Rabbit books (I was on a John Updike jag for a long time) and two books of the The Raj Quartet. Masterpiece Theatre got me on the Raj. I know I've read some of Chekhov short stories. As for the rest...I never heard of Fools of Fortune. Never read the Emigrants (but saw the movie based on this on TV). I'll look up Fools of Fortune at the libarary. I've heard some controvery or something like that about Transit of Venus. Other then that, I have no idea what it's about. I'll have to look that one up too.

    Speaking of John Updike.... If you've read his books, what do you think of him as a writer?

    • Having read "Transit of Venus", I find it hard to imagine there was ever any controversy about ite. I wasn't too impressed but I'm the wrong audience. The story is about two English girls moving to Australia. Most of it was set in England but the point of view was a very Australian POV of England which didn't work because the characters were English. It would have convinced me more if they had originally come from Australia. But I doubt this would be obvious to an American or Australian audience and possible only to English people who have lived in Australia.
      • Maybe Rachel was thinking of Delta of Venus, rather than Transit of Venus? THAT one was sure controversial...
    • I read Updike's Memories of the Ford Administration and found it pretty depressing, although I was fascinated by the way he wove the Buchanan story in with the main character's story. What got under my skin was the way I found myself sympathizing with the MC at the same time I despised him.
  • Oooo brilliant list! I'm saving this!
  • Oh, wow! Thanks for sharing this list. I'm going to copy and save it for my summer reading--some I've read, but many I haven't even heard of before. I love getting new reading list recommendations--it makes me think of summer reading programs all over again. *grins*

    Thanks, Ken!
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