I have got a few questions for you all. What defines a novel, a very good novel? Is it the plot, the characters or the dialogue or could it be all of the above. Several times I have come across several novels rated highly by other folks; one of them was number 1 on the New York Times bestselling list, and it still didn’t make a good read for me.
I think the most important thing about a good novel must be the characters. The major character must be compelling. It doesn’t matter if you hate or admire him or her. The major character should be someone who arouses your curiosity or simply excites you. The most beautiful/unusual/atmospheric setting is nothing without real characters to bring it to life. As a child I have always loved the Chronicles of Narnia…. I still do anyway. I loved it because I identified with the kids in the story; I saw them and I knew them.
I am probably gonna get mobbed by some… I didn’t like Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons/Digital Fortress/Da Vinci Code…. my major reason; the characters. I felt they were very flat especially the female characters. They were always attractive, possessed an IQ above 180, and had outlandish professions…. Cryptographer, Quantum Physicist ……..
I have never met a Cryptographer. Before I read the book I had never heard of a cryptographer. How am I supposed to identify with that?
The male characters were worse. They could speak several languages and all the women were after them. You could argue that Dan Browns’ books have sold a million copies worldwide. That’s true. But ask yourself this…. How many of you have picked up the Da Vinci Code to read over and over again?
The characters in a novel should have personality. They shouldn’t be perfect-they should have flaws; they could be alcoholics or look like Omobaba.
A good novel should have characters that have a past and a future beyond the novel. The life of a character shouldn’t just begin and end only on the pages of the novel.
A good novel should always make me wonder what happened to the character beyond the novel. Take Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie……(really hoping she does a sequel to that book), I have always wondered whatever happened to Kambili and her brother; Jaja. If she married the priest and if she truly became free.
The plot of a novel, its setting, the twists and turns present in every novel do matter but the key ingredient of a good read is the characters. They must speak to us.
Next Week, I am gonna do a review of this book I have been reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson”. It’s the first novel in the Millennium Trilogy.
I have also got an interesting article coming up “Music meets Literature”. You’ll have to comeback to visit me here to find out.
I would really like your comments and suggestions on what you would like see on this column(THE BIBLIOPHILE) and books you would like reviewed. I promise to reply to every comment.