May 20, 2022 | Rome, Italy

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel

By | 2018-03-21T18:28:57+01:00 February 1st, 2008|Recent Reviews|

By Jane Smiley

Knopf, 2005. 608 pages.

Smiley, winner of a Pulitzer prize and author of over a dozen books, took a year off from her own writing to read one hundred novels. But her break was only that and she soon returned to writing; this book is the result. In two parts, the first is a 13-part essay on novels — their history, their psychology and art — and on their writing — A Novel of Your Own. The second part is a discussion of each of the one hundred books she read.

The book is a delight in every sense. Smiley is acute and erudite; the ideal reading companion. She is opinionated without being polemic and easy to read but not simplistic. This is a book to have on the bedside table to pick up when you are in a fiction lull, unsure why you read novels or which one to turn to next.

Madeleine Johnson has written her "Notebook" column for more than a decade. She lived in Italy for almost 30 years, mostly in Milan, before returning to the U.S. in 2017. Her work has been published in the "Financial Times" and "New York Post."

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