Hawthorn, Jeremy. Studying the Novel: An Introduction
Edward Arnold, 2nd edition (1992, reprinted 1996)
Paperback, 146 pages
This slim volume is a good choice for book-discussion group members who appreciate good books but want to sharpen their reading and discussion skills. The premise of Hawthorn’s book is that “in the course of studying novels we must learn to pay more overt attention to their language than does the average casual reader” (p. 3).
Hawthorn devotes chapters to such broad topics as the history of the novel, critical approaches to fiction, and the cultural trends of realism, modernism, and postmodernism. But he is at his best in the chapters entitled “Analysing Fiction” and “Studying the Novel,” which make up the bulk of the book. He provides a checklist of elements a reader should make note of while reading a novel as well as extensive suggestions for preparing for written examinations. These chapters give readers the insight to read critically and the vocabulary to discuss what they read.
When presenting his general supporting material Hawthorn often apologizes for reducing a huge topic to its barest essentials. The apologies suggest that summary discussion goes against his professorial grain of wanting to expound on each topic fully; yet the summary approach is necessary to keep the material manageable and is what makes this guide appropriate for general readers as well as students.
© 1996 by Mary Daniels Brown