Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Language of Books

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern // Burial Rites by Hannah Kent // Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

There are many different ways a book shows you that it is well written, the construction of plot, witty dialogue, the way it makes you completely invested in the characters, the list goes on.
But there are some books that make their craft visible in the very language of the text, the way things are described. They’re beautifully descriptive, often with surprising imagery that also feels incredibly accurate. These three books have brilliant stories and characters as well, but they are examples of books whose language is so finely and intricately woven that the pleasure is as much in the fine language as the compelling story.

The Night Circus 

Morgenstern’s prose is laden with descriptive detail, which, rather than making the book heavy and slow, makes it rich and enthralling. The Night Circus is one of my favourite books because of its beautiful story and the way the prose creates a world both like and unlike our own. The enjoyment of reading the novel is almost as much in the detail threaded through every chapter as in the story itself.

Burial Rites 

Burial Rites is a wonderfully evocative tale of the last woman to be executed in Iceland. The way Kent tells the story through jumps back and forth in time is clever and compelling. The harsh, beautiful Icelandic landscape is described in believable and captivating detail, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that transports you to that place and time. It’s not a happy tale, but the way Kent creates such a captivating, convincing atmosphere is skilful and absorbing.

Mrs Dalloway 

My first experience with modernism, I approached Mrs Dalloway with apprehension, but Woolf’s language and style is not as difficult as it first appears. Woolf allows you into the heads of characters to see how their thoughts shift from musings to memory to what is happening around them, all in a seamless fashion. The thoughts of the characters are convincingly realistic and provide moments of both profound and relatable thoughts. While there isn’t much plot and it’s a bit sad, that’s not really the point. The point is to explore how people experienced life at that period of history.

 And those are three of my favourites for their descriptive detail, I encourage you to read them all!

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