If there is one area where struggling-to-be-noticed writers have the advantage over those who’ve been published since they were barely out of school, it’s our inside knowledge of the world of work. Coming to writing later in life, or merely being part of the majority unable to support themselves through writing, we have the experience to bring our characters’ jobs alive. But there can still be challenges in taking our characters to work.
For example, while setting your novel in your current workplace obviates the need for a research trip, you might have to smooth some colleagues’ ruffled feathers once the book is out in the world. From another angle, if you’ve gained your work experience in settings crowded with colleagues, you face the challenge of rendering it authentically without overwhelming the reader with an overabundance of characters.
I couldn’t resist pairing these recently published, unconventionally structured, debut novels about relationships: their intriguing one-word titles are almost interchangeable, with Alice in Asymmetry magnetically drawn to (and later repulsed by) her much older lover and the mother-daughter relationship explored in Magnetism inherently asymmetrical. My reading experience of both was mixed, strongly engaging with the second halves significantly more than the first. See what you think.
Although these two novels couldn’t be more different in tone – the first a literary exploration of a young mother’s development; the second tricksy thriller – I can’t resist pairing them for the other factors they have in common. Both feature thoughtful, philosophising, unnamed narrators; both take as their subject matter how we explore the inside and outside of other people, and ourselves. Both are ambitious and unusual in their approach; both are the author’s second book and a cracking read.
As 2018 started a few hours earlier in Australia than in the UK, it’s fitting that I should begin my reading year there. Or it could be the coincidence of kindly publicists sending me advance copies of two Australian novels published in the UK this month. The first namechecks various Sydney suburbs, while the second begins near Melbourne before circumnavigating the country. The first contemporary, the second set in the 1950s, they explore the socio-politics of Australian identities and their links to migration and colonialism.
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional.
Annecdotist is the blogging persona of Anne Goodwin:
slug-slayer, tramper of moors,
author of two novels.
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