Portal:Novels

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Title page of the 1628 edition of Bacon's New Atlantis

A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the Italian: novella for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself from the Latin: novella, a singular noun use of the neuter plural of novellus, diminutive of novus, meaning "new". Some novelists, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Ann Radcliffe, John Cowper Powys, preferred the term "romance" to describe their novels.

According to Margaret Doody, the novel has "a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years", with its origins in the Ancient Greek and Roman novel, in Chivalric romance, and in the tradition of the Italian renaissance novella. The ancient romance form was revived by Romanticism, especially the historical romances of Walter Scott and the Gothic novel. Some, including M. H. Abrams and Walter Scott, have argued that a novel is a fiction narrative that displays a realistic depiction of the state of a society, while the romance encompasses any fictitious narrative that emphasizes marvellous or uncommon incidents.

Works of fiction that include marvellous or uncommon incidents are also novels, including The Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Frankenstein. "Romances" are works of fiction whose main emphasis is on marvellous or unusual incidents, and should not be confused with the romance novel, a type of genre fiction that focuses on romantic love. (Full article...)

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Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the first novel by British writer Susanna Clarke (pictured). An alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it is based on the premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centering on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundary between reason and madness. It has been described as a fantasy novel, an alternative history, and a historical novel. The narrative draws on various Romantic literary traditions, such as the comedy of manners, the Gothic tale, and the Byronic hero. The novel's language is a pastiche of 19th-century writing styles, such as those of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Clarke began writing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in 1993; ten years later she submitted the manuscript for publication. It was accepted by Bloomsbury and published in September 2004, with illustrations by Portia Rosenberg. The novel was well-received by critics and reached number three on the New York Times bestseller list. It was longlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize and won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Selected novel quote

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  • "You know that song 'If a body catch a body comin' through the rye'? I'd like — "
    "It's 'If a body meet a body coming through the rye'!" old Phoebe said. "It's a poem. By Robert Burns."
    "I know it's a poem by Robert Burns."
    She was right, though. It is "If a body meet a body coming through the rye." I didn't know it then, though.
    "I thought it was 'If a body catch a body,'" I said. "Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."

The Catcher in the Rye

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