Fiction books reviews

Where there used to be a strict and clear delineation between fiction and non-fiction, nowadays this demarcation appears to be less distinct. Invariably, authors write about history from the perspective of fiction whilst imaginary plots are written from the point of view of real, rather than imaginary events. Within the world of fiction, however, the genre covers a wide range of reading matter that is likely to appeal across a wide variety of parameters, survive and remain popular across the generations. Some sub-genres within the realm of fiction tend to be anthologies; biography; contemporary fiction; 20th century classics; 1970 onwards; film tie-ins; historical; short stories; women writers; and more global fiction loosely referred to as the ‘world’.

Women Writers and Fiction
It is widely acknowledged that the largest sector of book purchasing is done by women and, to engage women’s attention and maintain their interest, women’s fiction needs to capture their emotions in a way that impacts on their place in society today, their secret fantasies and the images women dream of in their perfect relationship. Novels that have more appeal for women than men invariably tend to be written by women and cover romantic fiction, historical fiction and women’s fiction whose taxonomy tends to be within the mainstream of the novel category. Romantic fiction is often regarded as being fundamental to women’s fiction.

Chick-Lit and Romance
It is a huge market and brings with it equally large revenue, much of it written within the genre of serious, meaty fiction rather than focusing on the more light-hearted, flighty ‘chick-lit’ market as it has come to be known. Since Chick-lit made its entrance onto the UK market in 1996 with the appearance of ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ it seems to have carved out a sub-genre all of its own – and people tend to either love it or hate it, with equal passion! Those who profess to hate it dismiss this sub-genre as frivolous, despite the fact that it is read by a huge market of women whose own place within the professional world requires them to find effective ways to ‘switch-off’ during their few leisure hours: a good read with this much-maligned chick-lit offers these women a chance to throw off their responsibilities for a short while and lose themselves within the pages of a book that makes no demands on their intellect.

20th Century Classics
Rather topical at the moment following the release of the film ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’, the book originally written by Oscar Wilde has been described as ‘one of the modern classics of Western literature’ – even though it probably led to his social downfall! Oscar Wilde was one of the celebrities of the Victorian era. He was born in 1854 in Dublin and became a successful playwright and writer of short stories. He also wrote one book which was used extensively during his trial on the grounds of homosexuality for which he was imprisoned.

During his trial his book ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’ was drawn on time after time to ‘prove’ Oscar Wilde’s dubious sexuality. Following his period of imprisonment he spent the rest of his life in Europe where he died in November 1900. Despite the notoriety surrounding the life of Oscar Wilde, he was a brilliant wit in his lifetime, leaving us with a plethora of quotes, plays and short stories that are as applicable today as they were when he wrote them.

Pure Literature
Meanwhile, Margaret Atwood is a prolific poet, author and critic – as well as social campaigner and renowned feminist. On one occasion she was recipient of the Booker Prize and has been nominated for it a further 4 times; and has won the Governer General’s Award twice and been nominated a further 5 times. She has also been awarded the Prince of Asturias award for Literature as well as winning the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Margaret Atwood is best known as a novelist although she has also had 15 books of poetry, many based on fairy tales and myths, published as well.

She was born in Canada in 1939 – Ottawa, Ontario and later studied English, Philosophy and French at Victoria University, part of the University of Toronto. Margaret Atwood published her first book privately in 1961 – this was a book of poetry for which she was awarded the EJ Pratt medal. However, before her writing career began in earnest, Margaret Atwood enrolled at Radcliffe College on a Woodrow Wilson fellowship, graduating with a master’s degree in 1962. For the next few years she followed a teaching career as a university lecturer, alternating teaching with writing and culminating at New York University as Berg Professor of English.

Sex in Literature
So, who better qualified to write some of the 20th century classics than Margaret Atwood? Amongst her many books, the Handmaid’s Tale has been described by The Daily Telegraph as being ‘compulsively readable’. This book is about S-E-X! The story is set in a theocratic state run along totalitarian lines, called the Republic of Gilead. This Republic is the future of what was previously the USA. Dangerously low reproduction rates have necessitated the need for handmaids to bear children. This story revolves around restrictions on the movements of the handmaids – and you will have to read the rest to find out what happens: I would hate to spoil it for you!

Retrospective Fiction
This book is written in ‘flashback’ style that reconstructs the events that led up to the Republic of Gilead: it refers to women’s rights, military coups, pornography, prostitution – even an assassinated president and members of Congress are woven into the fabric of the story. As the story evolves an underground resistance organisation comes to light: in fact, there are more threads to unravel than in an old jersey! The story closes in 2195 with an epilogue in the form of a lecture given by a Professor. That is all I am saying about the book – if you want to know more, I suggest you contact our web page and buy the book which is available in the Fiction section, under 20th Century Classics. It’s an amazing book that you will find difficult to put down – so, get your chores out of the way before you start reading!

This book is a good read – in fact, it is immensely readable. In fact, if you delve into the Fiction section of our website, you will be amazed and delighted at the enormous range of fiction we have available – enough to keep you reading for many years to come!

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