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January 24, 2011

Which Narrative Style Do You Like?

Filed under: Narrators — rmlblog @ 4:59 pm

I had a very productive “reading-wise” weekend and noticed that all three books had different narrative styles. One of my book discussion comrades has complained about the number of first-person narratives so I always have that in mind as I read.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips — a funny contemporary romance writer — has a new book, Call Me Irresistible. It features children from two of her other books — Meg Koranda whose parents are in Glitter Baby and Ted Beaudine whose parents are in Fancy Pants. Unlike most of Phillips’ books we rarely see the male’s point of view, but that might be because the main conflict comes from his desire to please everyone. He’s even become mayor of his town because everyone wanted him to. The secondary characters are funny and interesting and we, of course, are rooting for Ted to finally realize what a catch Meg will be.

S.J. Rozan’s mysteries feature Bill Smith and Lydia Chin. The stories are told in first person with the two partners alternating as narrators. This one — after the 2009 Shanghai Moon — is Bill’s to tell. Lydia is kidnapped (off camera) by the first page and Bill and Lydia’s cousin Linus and his girlfriend Trella have to decipher the clues to the game the kidnapper is playing. This is definitely a nail-biter as a Chinese crime-boss and the cops are soon on Bill’s trail. Most of the story is told in dialogue or Bill’s thoughts.

I am almost done listening to Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector. This story has at least 2 to 3 plotlines going at once which makes it frustrating in many ways. My favorite storyline involves Jess Bach and her older boss George. Jess is a “flower child”, studying philosophy, working to save the redwoods while helping out at George’s rare book store. George acquires the cookbooks and Jess researches the books and the collector who had annotated notes stuck in the pages. She also becomes friends with a Hasidic rabbi, a plot device that introduces some Jewish philosophy. Another plotline involves Jess’ sister Emily who is a CEO of a software start-up and engaged to a man in another start-up. We meet all of the people involved in both companies and follow some of them in some detail. All of this takes place from 2000 through 2002 — and you know what that means.

Goodman writes with a great deal of description and thoughtful ideas. I wanted to rush to the internet to look up more about Jewish philosophy and definitely wanted to suggest to Top Chef that they include a challenge involving making an old recipe into a modern dish.

All in all, I think I like Phillips’ narrative style best. Seeing situations from more than one point of view holds my interest better than a single narrator, but too many narrators is just confusing.

Books read for 2011: total so far 10. But 4 were re-reads.

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