Today in Armchair BEA, we are discussing Literary Fiction. Literary Fiction isn’t all that different from genre fiction in my mind, but I do see a slight difference, as if literary fiction is maybe a contemporary fiction that might one day become a classic. As I said, this is how I see it in my mind – you might see it quite differently!
So, today we’re discussing books that have somehow changed our lives. Books that touched us in a way that made us see things differently, or want to live our life differently. There are books that have made me feel like something just clicked inside me, as if the narrative shared some deep, universal secret with me during the time it took me to read it.
One such book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Without giving away the plot, this is the story about a shepherd who has a dream. He wakes up in the barn where he sleeps, in a small town in Spain, and feels as if he has to go to where he saw in his dream. He sells his goats and takes off for Morocco. In his dream, he had seen himself digging in the sand atop some pyramids, and he found so much gold he would be rich forever. His endeavor to get to the pyramids is like a pilgrimage, and he meets many people on his travels. When he finally gets to the pyramids, a band of robbers attack him, and before they beat him to death, they ask him what he’s doing there, and he tells them of his dream. Which, of course, makes them laugh, and the leader tells him about his own dream, about a barn next to a church, where a shepherd sleeps… But that he wasn’t stupid enough to go to Spain to find that barn and the shepherd just because of a dream. There is a lot more to the story, and to the conversation with the robbers, but in the end, I had this feeling of fulfillment. And being content with my life, because I strive to better myself, and my condition.
Another favorite Literary Fiction book for me is Adam Bede by George Eliot. I love this story because of the writing, but also because of the theme that seems so universal. Hester is a young and very beautiful girl. Adam is in love with her, and asks her to marry him, but she is dreaming of the lord of the manor, beautiful dresses and an easy life. She ends up accepting Adam’s proposal, but the lord starts to notice her as well. As an affair between Hester and the lord starts, Adam surprises them one day, and is aghast at the lord’s betrayal, not Hester’s. She is an innocent in Adam’s eyes, and she can do no wrong. Things become even more complicated after this, and something horrible happens with Hester. The fact that this story could have been written today (albeit with more technology included in the narrative) is one of the reasons I love it so much. And also because the female condition has sadly not changed all that much since that time. A girl who does certain things is deemed unworthy, but a boy doing the same things is looked up to. This is slowly changing, but there is still a lot to be done.
A Literary Fiction about friendship also deeply touched me, and made me think even more about my friends – my chosen family, I like to call them – and how we interact with each other, the trust we put in each other and how important we are to each other. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy is beautiful in all aspects. The story unfolds in Ireland, and I loved how the characters met, and were a little weary towards each other, but then, they became a true circle of friends. Some couples were born from that circle, and some very strong friendships as well. There is some jealousy, a betrayal and then because of the actions of one single character, that group will never be the same. This also made me think about how our actions always have consequences, and how important it is to beware of just what those consequences are.
What are your favorite Literary Fiction books? Do you have some to recommend to me?