20 must read Epistolary Novels or Novels written with letters and shizel...

So, the next thing I have to do for my course is to write a reflection of two or so writers who have influenced my work.

My first reaction to this was...have you seen my house? It is practically held up by books. How on earth do I decide?

Then I moaned about it to my very patient other-half whose used to me throwing my hands in the air and having a hissy fit over nothing at all.

Then there was about a month of me mooching about the place, deciding what to do whilst completing my current TMA (Tutor Marked Assignment).

Eventually, after much harumphing about the place, I decided I would do a comparison of one of the first books I read as an adult, Dracula, with my current favourite book, A Tale for the Time Being, whose author, Ruth Ozeki, I talked about in my last post - here.

I wanted to talk about the similarities and the differences in their approach to the epistolary novel. Which sounds kinda fancy and like I know what I'm talking about. I don't.

What I do know is that I loved Dracula, and studied the Gothic Novel the first time I did further education and I have never really grown out of being a Goth. I also loved all the films, from Hammer Horror to Twilight to Buffy.  The whole myth of the vampire and all it entails it is just one great idea and whoever came up with it in the first place (because it wasn't Stoker) was genius.

Similarly, I love a diary, I have kept one since I was a kid and still do. This blog is an extension of that, albeit an edited version as what I write in my notebooks, are not for public consumption, and often written whilst angry and upset, without regret, as a way to vent.

I was also a keen letter writer and have all the letters my parents wrote to me whilst at college, (they usually start with, here is the cheque you asked for..). It is with great sadness that I have seen the disappearance of the letter. I have letters written by my grandparents during the first and second world wars, and one from my Dad to his brother whilst he was conscripted describing his long trip by boat to Cyprus where his posting was. All are beautifully detailed.

Nowadays, what will happen to our children who only communicate with emoji's, this is not a letter.

Will we have books written like this? Now don't get me wrong, I am all about new technology and enjoy a text instead of having to communicate in the reals as much as the next person. But who will write the books? I am slightly reassured that The Perks of Being a Wallflower film is based on a book by the same name by Stephen Chbosky. This is an epistolary novel, however, it was written in 1999 before the SmartPhone really came into being so...

Having said that A Tale for the Time Being is a mixture of letters, diary and narrative. This was published in 2013 and it is 16 years old Nao's diary that is the main focus of the story.

But I digress, I have spent this morning researching the epistolary novel, realising I have completely forgotten that both, Bridget Jones Diary (Doh! clues in the title) and Les Liaisons Dangereuses where epistolary novels amongst many others. I also didn't account for people's views on this type of writing.

One school of thought sees the epistolary novel as a feminist issue as men pretended to be women writing letters and diaries back in the 18th Century. A couple of examples of this are Clarissa and Pamela (by Samuel Richardson). That will be a bag of bones I won't open for the purposes of this TMA, I would definitely need more than the 2500 words I have available.

So now I have to get back to studying, but just for you - here is a list of novels, you may, or may not have realised are Epistolary.

  1. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
  2. We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver
  3. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  4. Bridget Jones Diary - Helen Fielding
  5. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
  6. Carrie - Stephen King
  7. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  8. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte
  9. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging - Louise Rennison
  10. Gilead - Marilynne Robinson
  11. Possession - AS Byatt
  12. Adrian Mole Diaries - Sue Townsend
  13. World War Z - Max Brooks
  14. Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon
  15. A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki 
  16. The Martian - Andy Weir
  17. Microserfs - Douglas Coupland
  18. Herzog - Saul Bellow
  19. The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood
  20. So Long a Letter - Mariama Ba
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