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Of Novels and Novelty
September 27, 2012

Literally, a ‘novel’ would mean ‘fresh’ or ‘new’. In this issue of the Book Lovers Club News, you will see why the literary art form of ‘novel’ writing also connotes the same sense as I elaborate a little on its historic tradition and evolution.

The Novel

Life of Pi-Ang Lee The novel is a relatively new art form and has evolved into its modern avatar only in the 18th century. Believe it or not, the novel- as we know it today, evolved from the Italian word ‘novella’ which was used to connote shorter, fictional, often romantic stories of much less complexity. Now if you have been reading this space diligently, you would already know what a ‘novella’ is. In case you don’t, simply refer to our last month’s issue to get an overview Smile

Before the 18th century, longer narratives were usually written in the verse form. Classic examples in point would be the Greek Iliad and Odyssey, the British Beowulf or the Indian Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Around the 18th century, as literacy rates increased, the middle class expanded and people had more money to spend on literature. This led to an increase in the demand for the novel. This was when Samuel Richardson's ‘Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded’ (1740), Daniel Defoe's ‘Robinson Crusoe’ (1719), Jane Austen's ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (1813), and Gustave Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' (1857) became hugely popular. The modern novel had been born.

Plot, Character, Scene or setting, Narrative method and point of view, Scope or dimension, and Myth/ symbolism/ significance were the main elements of this new literary baby. While the earlier narratives were predominantly romantic, the novel soon grew in scope to include the Historical, Picaresque, Sentimental, Gothic, Epistolary, Pastoral and many other types. In the expert hands of literary giants like Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, D H Lawrence, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf (the list is endless) this new baby of the literary block became the rage and best-selling phenomena it is today!

Book Review Circle gossip

Did you know that the ‘verse-novel’ as an art form exists to this day even though it is not as popular as its prosaic sibling? Byron's ‘Don Juan’ (1824) and ‘Eugene Onegin’ (1831) by Alexander Pushkin are popular examples of this genre. Karen Hesse's ‘Out of the Dust’ and Thanhha Lai's ‘Inside Out and Back Again’ have been written more recently and have also received some literary recognition.

Book Review Circle suggested read:

Life of Pi by Ang Lee. Read it now to understand the much hyped movie better! Click here to read a review of the book.

Test your Literary Quotient

See if you know answers to the following
  1. Name the sexually explicit novel written by D. H. Lawrence that was banned in the UK
  2. Which famous novel by Gunter Grass deals with events of World War II
  3. Which novel by Aldous Huxley critiques modernist consumerism?


  1. Lady Chatterley's Lover
  2. The Tin Drum
  3. Brave New World
Do write in to me at with your comments, updates and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ok. I will leave you to munch on that.

Happy reading till we meet again.


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