A very brief retrospective this week because I am running up against the deadline for the second assignment on my Shakespeare course so just two simple genre related points.
First, a plea for help. A friend of mine (really, a friend of mine, I’m not hiding behind a false anonymity here) has been asked by the local library service to select books for some of their housebound borrowers. One of these only wants to read what I would call cosy (cozy) crime. My friend isn’t a crime reader at all and I am not really into the cosy end of the spectrum. I have the beginnings of a list of recommendations but would welcome any further suggestions. This borrower gets through fifteen books a month so it may have to become a question of quantity over quality.
My current list is
A C Beaton
I shall also suggest that she looks at writers like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Elizabeth Peters and, if those go down well, point her in the direction of the British Library Classic Crime series. Are there any other writers that you can suggest? We would both be very grateful for any help you can give.
Secondly, an observation about my own stupidity. I have been reading my friend Helen’s blog, She Reads Novels, quite literally for years. As those of you who are discriminating enough to do the same will know, Helen mostly reads and blogs about historical fiction. I really enjoy her posts but if you had asked me before the beginning of this week I would have told you that personally I was not a fan of the genre. Well, on Wednesday The Walter Scott Prize announced the long list for this year’s award, which unsurprisingly is for Historical Fiction and Helen posted about it here. I was astounded. What do I mean I don’t read historical fiction? I’ve already read three of these novels and have another three on my up and coming list. (That’s the one with books I really do intend to read as opposed to the tbr list which we all know is a flight of fancy.). So, I went back and checked previous nominees and discovered that one year I’d read the entire short list! I simply didn’t classify them as Historical Fiction because in my mind (Helen, I’m really sorry!) they were far too good.
Actually, I think there are two factors at work here. First, when I was reading historical fiction, in my teens, there were a lot of poorly written examples of the genre and for the most part what I was borrowing from the library was substandard romance fiction in an historical setting. That experience has undoubtedly coloured my view. The second is to do with what counts as historical. For goodness sake, Linda Grant’s The Dark Circle is on one of the short lists. That describes events that happened in my own life time. When did I become historical?
Anyway, enough of my blinkered approach to genre. As soon as my course is over (I have loved doing it, but it has really cut into reading time) I am going to mine the back lists of the Walter Scott Prize because, if the novels I have read are anything to go by, the others are going to be well worth exploring too.