Portal:Novels

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A novel is a long prose narrative written by a novelist that describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story. The genre has historical roots in antiquity and the fields of medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter, an Italian word used to describe short stories, supplied the present generic English term in the 18th century.

Further definition of the genre is historically difficult. The construction of the narrative, the plot, the relation to reality, the characterization, and the use of language are usually discussed to show a novel's artistic merits. Most of these requirements were introduced to literary prose in the 16th and 17th centuries, in order to give fiction a justification outside the field of factual history.

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Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the first novel by British writer Susanna Clarke (pictured). An alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it is based on the premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centering on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundary between reason and madness. It has been described as a fantasy novel, an alternative history, and a historical novel. The narrative draws on various Romantic literary traditions, such as the comedy of manners, the Gothic tale, and the Byronic hero. The novel's language is a pastiche of 19th-century writing styles, such as those of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Clarke began writing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in 1993; ten years later she submitted the manuscript for publication. It was accepted by Bloomsbury and published in September 2004, with illustrations by Portia Rosenberg. The novel was well-received by critics and reached number three on the New York Times bestseller list. It was longlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize and won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Selected novel quote

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  • It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it's all you have got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.

Shantaram


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