Sunday, November 30, 2014

Does size matter?

I’ve just begun watching The Big C – the Showtime dramedy about a suburban teacher attempting to live life with Stage IV melanoma. It’s fantastic. The acting is superb, the script is excellent and the characters are quirky without being implausible. I just have one problem with the show. At a meagre 26 minutes an episode, I’m always left feeling ripped off when it ends.
This feeling of dissatisfaction got me wondering – does size matter when it comes to the enjoyment of a book?

The most disappointing reading experience I’ve ever had was Tim Winton’s Breath. I love Winton’s writing, but at a mere 215 sparsely worded pages I was, once again, left feeling unfulfilled.
Similarly Ian McEwan’s latest, The Children Act, is also 215 pages in length. Although I know I’ll enjoy it (McEwan’s writing never disappoints me) I also know I’ll be left wanting by the time I get to the acknowledgements page.

I suppose part of my grievance lies in the fact that I’m paying the same price for a 215-page novel as I am for one double that size.

Should value for money be considered when purchasing a novel?

McEwan controversially said recently in an interview that ‘very few novels earn their length’. The sizes of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (595 pages), Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (864 pages) and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (832 pages) leave me reeling. I have these on my bookshelf but I’ll never read them until my kids are grown up and I’m retired - roughly twenty-five years from now. By this time HBO, Showtime or the BBC will have adapted them into a more digestible, thirteen-part TV series for people just like me.

Perhaps I’m just being fussy. Perhaps there is no perfect length for a novel.

If the story is told well, is there any need to worry about the size of a book?

Click here for the full Ian McEwan interview.

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