Literature’s Surprising Turns, Turns, Turns

Have you ever read a novel in which the story is chugging along until the book takes a very unexpected turn?

That’s a good or bad thing, depending on the nature of the turn and how it’s handled. Surprises can be welcome and “un-boring,” but sometimes an author completely jumps the shark.

My latest encounter with a veer in the fiction sphere occurred while reading Three Junes last month. That Julia Glass novel starts off focusing on the Scottish dad Paul, a newspaperman who’s sort of interesting but not exactly Mr. Charisma. Then the second section of the book abruptly shifts to Paul’s oldest son Fenno, a gay man who left Scotland for a life in New York City. While he’s also not very dynamic, Fenno’s life and choices and interactions are more compelling to read about than Paul’s. Then, as we become used to Fenno being the protagonist, Three Junes puts the spotlight on Fern, an interesting artist type who we first met when Paul was traveling in Greece.

Going back many, many Junes — to the 19th century — we have Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit suddenly sending the English title character to America. Reportedly, Dickens did this at least partly because sales of the serialized novel’s initial installments were not going as well as those of his earlier books.

Lee Child is an Englishman who moved to America, and I experienced one of the biggest surprises of his Jack Reacher novels in Running Blind. Reacher is known as a drifter without a home or car who wanders around the U.S. after leaving the military, so it was no surprise that he happened to be in Manhattan when Running Blind began. But instead of checking in to yet another hotel, he shockingly drives to his own house in upstate New York. Turns out he inherited it from a man who was sort of a surrogate father — although Reacher does not stay domesticated for long.

Speaking of long, seeing the backstory of the Mayfair women unfold a number of chapters into Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour is not an initial surprise but then becomes one when that backstory goes on for several hundred pages. But the 300-year history is so fascinating and well told that it’s riveting to read.

Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy surprises early on when there’s virtually nothing about Rob Roy for many pages. Instead, the focus is on the character Frank Osbaldistone. In this case, my first seeing the Rob Roy movie — which put the spotlight on the title character from the start — contributed to the puzzlement.

A similar situation involved seeing the Field of Dreams film before reading the Shoeless Joe novel it was based on. I was going “what?” when J.D. Salinger showed up in the W.P. Kinsella book; he was eliminated from the movie under legal threat from the reclusive author.

Then there’s John Steinbeck’s novel-play hybrid Burning Bright, which first focuses on several circus characters. The second part disorients readers by featuring the very same characters as farmers before the third part raises our eyebrows again when the identical cast turns into a bunch of sailors.

Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin startles readers when it begins toggling between the novel itself and a fantastical/fascinating novel within the novel.

Last but not least, a number of John Irving’s novels grab your attention with odd plot twists.

What are some fictional works that take unexpected turns?

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I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

130 thoughts on “Literature’s Surprising Turns, Turns, Turns

  1. In a way, the King and the Duke hijack The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, When Huck and Jim past Cairo, my students ask me, “Why don;t they just jump off the raft and swim for it?” After all, “isn’t Jim a runaway slave, and has his life on the line?” After the Duke and the King hijack the story for a good 15 chapters, the next turn which might not have to be a turn is the chapters breaking Jim out of jail: chapters 34-40. Those chapters are so high on British history that it is not conceivable that Tm would be familiar with all of it even if he has no idea what he is saying. It is far too detailed to remember all of those things including the exact contents of what goes into a coat of arms.

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    • Great reminder, Eric, that “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is full of all kinds of twists and turns! I think Mark Twain put down the book for a while before resuming its writing, which may have contributed somewhat to the jarring nature of a transition or two. Plus Twain in “Huck Finn” (and several other books) had both funny and serious intentions, and those two approaches can be hard to be made seamless.

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  2. I think I’m a little off topic here, but when I read “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” (based on recommendations made about the novel both by you and other participants in this blog), I was VERY put off by the sudden exit of the plot into the diary of the title character. By that time, I was engrossed in the novel and the “mystery” surrounding her appearance at Wildfell Hall and the obvious infatuation of Gilbert Markham. The sharp exit into her diary actually made me stop reading for a few days, but I ultimately plowed through and found the novel a great read!

    By the way, I received my copy of “Grail Nights”. Thank you SO MUCH, jhNY! I’m looking forward to curling up tomorrow with a good book! Can’t wait!

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    • Very ON topic, lulabelle! I hadn’t thought of it, but changes in a novel’s format (not just in its content) can be a surprise turn — and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” is a great example. There are also novels that switch from poetry to text (Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”), toggle between poetry and text (A.S. Byatt’s “Possession”), include fake newspaper stories (Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin”), include lots of mail correspondence (Wilkie Collins’ “Armadale”), etc.

      Hope you like “Grail Nights,” which I enjoyed immensely.

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  3. Ethan Frome ranks high on the most surprised ending list. I don’t care how many times I read it, that ending baffles me every time.

    Dave, you will soon discover the many unexpected twists and turns in Kindred, especially towards the end. I won’t spoil it for you. Let’s just say you might get the urge to make sure your arms are still intact after you read the last two pages…

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    • “Ethan Frome” DOES have some surprising moments, Ana. Great novella — got me hooked on Edith Wharton’s work.

      Very much looking forward to “Kindred”! I realize it’s going to be a very intense read…

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  4. One of the turns I can think of is “The Islands of Chaldea” by the late Diana Wynn Jones. The novel is building up much like her other books to be a young adult or older story. She died before finishing it, and her sister Ursula Jones completed the story. While the characters remain the same and the transition is hard to find yet still abrupt, the book comes out almost a middle grade level book.

    This isn’t a condemnation I enjoyed the book, it was just such a stark switch in the grade level took the book somewhere I wasn’t expecting.

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      • Malcolm Lowry’s “October Ferry to Gabriola” was unfinished when he died, but may have only been in need of editing– it’s never been clear to me just how much needed doing, or rather, was done by his widow, Margerie Bonner, to prepare the book for publication.

        “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” was unfinished when Charles Dickens died, but has been finished a few times since. I don’t know which, if any, of the completed Droods is preferred by Dickens readers.

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  5. Detective and thriller and espionage fiction feature so much in the way of unexpected plot twists, they’re to be expected, so I will mention 2+, each outside those genres.

    1) The Family Moskat, by IB Singer. This is a generational saga, and works as such and as one might anticipate, but I found the ending a complete surprise, and one that stuck with me years later. When the Nazi bombs begin falling on Warsaw, one of the characters, an intensely religious man who spends his days reading scripture and commentaries, rushes out onto the streets shouting :The Messiah is coming! The Messiah is coming!” When asked about his outburst, the man explains: “Death is the Messiah!”

    2) Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I did not anticipate the full force of McMurphy’s lobotomy– his diminished presence after, or, The Chief’s reaction. I finished the book in bed, turned out the light, and ten minutes later, sat up and turned on the lights. Couldn’t find sleep for hours after.

    3) Bonus!! The Charterhouse of Parma, by Stendahl. Not a plot twist exactly, but it’s the only book I can remember reading in which the title does not figure in anyplace through hundreds of pages, showing up only once– the very last page.

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    • Three terrific examples of surprise turns, jhNY, very well described! Thanks!

      Would love to read “The Family Moskat” one day; I’ve read some of I.B. Singer’s short stories, and thought they were outstanding. What a conclusion that novel has.

      I’ve read “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and seen the movie, and thought the film came closer to doing the book justice than most literature-inspired movies do.

      “The Charterhouse of Parma” does indeed have an unusual ending!

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    • jhNY you are so right about good detective fiction. It keeps you guessing right till the end.

      Also thanks for the copy of the book. I just finished chapter one tonight. Will it be added to Goodreads by you or is it alright if I add it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • We’re hoping, the author and I, to sell the book through her agent, to a trad publisher, so, until we succeed (or are convinced we will not, and self-publish), the 100 copies we printed will be the only copies available. But if you’d like to add it to Goodreads, I’m all for it!

        Glad to hear “Grail Nights” got from here to there!

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  6. The surprise in “George Mills,” by Stanley Elkin is what doesn’t happen. George, cursed by 10 centuries of blue-collar blood, studies history but repeats it anyway. Over and over and over. And then he dies, in the most breath-taking death writing I remember from anywhere.

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    • Wow, Bill — that book sounds even more intriguing the second time you described it! Great observation that a surprise can be something that doesn’t happen as well as something that does happen. One example I’m thinking of comes near the end of W. Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage,” when the protagonist ends up making a major choice NOT to do something.

      As I mentioned under a previous post, I did try Stanley Elkin on your recommendation. Couldn’t find “George Mills” at my local library, so I randomly took out Elkin’s “The Rabbi of Lud” — and it turned out to be one of the quirkiest novels I’ve read in years. πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you, Marty! From seeing your comment and the Wikipedia link, that book sounds VERY intriguing. I love reading great historical fiction, even when it has disturbing elements (as it often does, given that so much of history is disturbing).

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  7. It has been a long time that I thought of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” the book is the basis for the film, “Blade Runner” and although different in many way the morality play is what draws one in. I think I need to read it again as an adult but as I recall the morality aspect kept switching a bit right until the end. HA! I just destroyed my reading glasses by accident today so it may be a few days before I pick-up a book πŸ˜€

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  8. Hi Dave — Happy New Year!!!!

    Scott Turow’s “Presumed Innocent” came to mind when I read this week’s column. There were a lot of twists and turns in that one, and a “didn’t-see-that-one-coming” ending.

    I would also add Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary”. Two year-old Gage — a toddler the readers have come to care about — runs out into the rural highway next to his home as his parents scramble to get to him before he sets his tiny feet on pavement. Alas, too late: Gage is hit by a semi and, literally, knocked out of his tiny shoes. Up until then, I had never read a book where a child was just taken out like that, so violently and so vividly. As disturbing as that was, the book only got much more so, right up until the last sentence (I seriously love that book ;-)).

    I hope you and your family are having a wonderful year so far, Dave. “See” you next week πŸ™‚

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    • Happy New Year to you, too, Pat! I hope things are also going well with you and yours.

      Thanks for mentioning those two novels — both very relevant to this topic. Legal thrillers such as “Presumed Innocent” (which I unfortunately haven’t read yet) often need some twists to reach their full thriller potential. πŸ™‚ That’s certainly the case with Michael Connelly’s “The Lincoln Lawyer,” and with many of John Grisham’s excellent novels.

      I’ve read a lot of Stephen King, but not “Pet Sematary.” Wow — that IS surprising that King “went there” with a toddler.

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    • Of course, it can sometimes be self-helpful, for an author to employ the old National Lampoon device, when one is stuck for a plot twist or stuck without a finish: ‘Suddenly everybody was run over by a truck.’

      Having never read “Pet Sematary”, I knew nothing of Gage’s abrupt end. Now I recognize King may well have been a reader of that magazine in his formative years

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      • I must admit, I’d never contemplated the Opera House as a comparison for this blog! Glad to see that this reaches so many countries though. There must be a lot of people who read this, but don’t comment, which is fine, of course, but it would be interesting to know who these people are and where they’re from. If I recall correctly, during your anniversary blog, you said that you had a lot of readers in Japan?

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        • I wouldn’t have thought of the Sydney Opera House, either — it was all the doing of the WordPress staff. πŸ™‚

          Susan, I was also surprised when I first saw on my “backstage” statistics page (in 2014) how many countries this blog’s readers live in. As you say, many don’t comment, but I’m very happy they’re reading the blog! I wonder if I get some of them through links I put on various parts of Facebook.

          I think a lot of my Japan views are from Eric, an American who taught in that country. He has since taken a job in China.

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          • Oh, I didn’t realise that Eric was “Japanese”. That makes sense, though I am disappointed to learn that I’m not the only exotic foreigner around here πŸ™‚ Not that my little Australian city could really be called exotic. And it’s obviously nowhere near as exciting as an American travelling through Asia as a teacher. An Australian friend of mine did the same thing in China a few years back. Sadly, my most exciting travelling involves a drive to the beach!

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            • Anywhere in Australia sounds exotic to me, Susan. πŸ™‚ A place I’d love to visit someday. My Australian “visits” have all been virtual and indirect — reading novels such as Wilkie Collins’ “A Rogue’s Life,” watching Peter Weir movies, watching Wiggles videos with my daughter when she was younger, listening to groups such as The Seekers…

              Most of the regular commenters on this blog are definitely American, but there are occasionally comments here (and under my Facebook links) from other countries — Canada, Russia, etc. And many of the American commenters have traveled abroad a lot. They live in states such as Ohio, Alabama, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Minnesota, Delaware, Pennsylvania, etc.

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              • I LOVE that your daughter was a Wiggles fan. I don’t have kids, so there were never any videos in my house, but I know all the songs thanks to nieces and nephews. So much fun. I wish they’d been around when I was five.

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                • Me, too! The Wiggles were so much better than the children’s fare when I was a kid. The singing, the dancing, the skits, Captain Feathersword, Dorothy the Dinosaur, the famous guest stars (Kylie Minogue, etc.). Very talented bunch. I guess The Wiggles are still around, but with only one original member.

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                  • Of all the random things that I could have learned that you like, Dave, I never would have thought of Dor-o-thy, Dor-o-thy, Dor-o-thy the DINE-O-SAUR!

                    To briefly go back on topic, as we’ve discussed before, there has been a lot of classic literature that I haven’t been exposed to. Fortunately, because of that lack of exposure, I’ve also managed to avoid ‘spoilers’. One of the exceptions to this is Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”. Though I didn’t know the details, I knew it didn’t end well for poor Anna K. Well I’ve pretty much finished (thank god!) and still found the ending kind of surprising. I can imagine that if you knew nothing about the book, the end would have been a massive shock. But even knowing what was coming, I think it was out of character for Anna, and so would have been a surprise for her, so as a vicarious experience, it was still a surprise for me, if that makes any kind of sense? Not a great book. Due to its unnecessary length, I don’t it’s even a good book. But it’s better than “War and Peace” so that’s something…

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                    • Ha, Susan! Well, Dorothy the Dinosaur was (is?) quite a character. I like her better than Barney the purple dinosaur! After you just funnily “sang” about Dorothy, I should revisit that character by watching my daughter’s now-dusty DVDs (more “d” alliteration πŸ™‚ ) or on a YouTube video. Here’s one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UHJ-f31tzs

                      And thanks for your interesting thoughts about “Anna Karenina”! They make total sense! As I might have mentioned before, it has been so long since I read it that I don’t feel capable of discussing it much. But there are certainly a number of novels with VERY dramatic (usually tragic) moments that might be in there more for impact and memorability than because they’re necessarily “organic” to the character or plot.

                      With your impressive run of classics, do you have others on your near-future reading list? If so, which ones?

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                    • jhNY, though I read “Anna Karenina” and “War and Peace” decades ago, my vague memory is that I liked them overall and that they were amazing achievements. But when it comes to the “Big Two” Russian novelists of that era, I prefer Dostoyevsky over Tolstoy. “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov” to me are just jaw-droppingly great.

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                    • This thread seems to be maxed out, so I’m not sure where this will appear, but I’m sure you’ll follow it.

                      To both you and jhNY, no, I don’t get what all the hype is. I find Tolstoy ‘ok’. That’s it, just ok. And I don’t think ok should exceed 400 pages. I just don’t see a need for it. He seemed to ramble from topic to topic with no coherence. His characters were elated and joyous and in love for all eternity. Until the next page when they were jealous and insecure and suicidal. And yes, I understand that this a reflection of what people are really like, but it’s also supposed to be a story. Supposed to be entertaining. If I want mood swings and insecurities, I can read my own diary. Having said that, there were a few parts that I really liked. Especially the birth of Kitty’s child. Though again, hubby couldn’t make up his mind whether he loved or hated the baby. And we’re never really given any resolution to all these conflicting emotions. It seems that the only solution is to throw yourself in front of a train.

                      Though this feels a bit “Emperor’s New Clothes” to me, I know there must be something that people see. There must be something that I’m missing. And as jhNY alluded to, there’s not really a point in trying to discuss something as subjective as taste, and so I’m sorry for my rant, but after a month with this thing, I felt like I needed to get some stuff off my chest. I feel better now πŸ™‚

                      Dave, in the immediate future, I think I’ll mostly be reading notes etc. for the new job starting tomorrow πŸ™‚ After that, I’ll go back to the list that I sent you on FB a while ago. Not all classics, but I think my near-medium future will be spent with Ms. Austen, which I’m very much looking forward to πŸ™‚

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                    • Thanks, Susan, for your take on Tolstoy — expressed drolly (your diary quip!) and well. There IS something about certain Russian novels when it comes to elation following dejection following elation… And, yes, if one is not “into” an author, reading a very long novel is not that appealing. And, yes again, literary tastes can be so subjective — we don’t all like the same thing, which makes for interesting blog discussions. πŸ™‚

                      The best of luck with the new job! Totally understandable that you won’t have time to read as much fiction for a while (assuming the company’s annual report isn’t fiction πŸ™‚ ). And spending some hours with Jane Austen is a very good thing!

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        • I am one of the guilty who read and never participate. I enjoy reading the friendly banter between the regular posters.

          Jhny has taught me so much about music, history, and
          obscure writers. I have learned quite a lot about music, minority writers I never heard of, world cultures,
          and natural history from Ana. Ms bebe is very knowledgeable about literature and entertainment. I like Kat Lib posts on mystery and suspense novels.

          They interact so well, I can never think of anything to add. If Dave Astor doesn’t mind I would rather continue reading than post any real comments.

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          • Thanks, Anonymous! It’s totally fine to read and not to comment! I greatly appreciate you reading my blog posts and the comments. You definitely follow things closely — your descriptions of jhNY’s, Ana’s, bebe’s, and Kat Lib’s comments are exactly right. They are experts in all the things you mentioned. And I agree that the friendly banter is very enjoyable. Thanks again!

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            • I found this blog thru another word press blog. The topics and especially the comments made me stick around for awhile. I’ve been reading for a few months now.

              So much nastiness in a lot of online comments on other sites it’s nice to sit back and read the comments of your posters here.

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                • That’s so cool! Thanks for commenting, guys πŸ™‚ This is definitely one of the nicest sites on the internet, with some of the nicest people. I personally have a problem that I can’t have an opinion without sharing it! But it’s nice to know that this blog is read, and enjoyed, even if people choose not comment. There’s certainly no obligation, and I apologise if my original comment made people feel like there’s something wrong with not contributing.

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                  • I agree that it’s fine to comment or not comment — whatever people prefer. As I said before, I’m happy when people just read the columns and comments. I love the comments, too, but not everyone has the time and desire to post their thoughts — and that’s okay. πŸ™‚

                    Thanks for your kind words about the site, Susan! You greatly contribute to the good feelings, expertise, and humor here!

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              • Welcome, Anonymous, to the best book blog ever, especially one that has to do with many different kinds of books. We are a small community of book lovers that never judge one another’s choices in books, whether they be classics, or modern fiction or young adult fiction (or others). Please don’t ever feel that someone is judging you for whatever you feel is appropriate. I’m glad that you’ve been reading some of the comments here lately, but there is no reason to do that and feel bad about the same.

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                • So nicely said, Kat Lib, and thanks for that “best book blog ever” comment!!! It IS a great group of literature lovers here. πŸ™‚ And, as you said, Anonymous is totally welcome to read and not comment.

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                • Since we’re all open-minded about literary choices around here, I have a confession.

                  I received a $100 voucher at my favourite bookstore as a birthday and Christmas present. Went there the first Saturday after the new year because I figured there would be some post-holiday specials going on. The way the shelves are arranged, you have to go past the children’s section to reach the sci-fi area, which is where I was headed. A gorgeous book cover in the children’s section caught my eye. Picked it up and saw it was a collection of Han Christian Andersen Fairy Tales.

                  So the adult in me wanted to leave the book there. The art lover and whimsical part of me wanted to buy it because that cover/design was so beautiful. I couldn’t resist; picked it up and put it in my basket.

                  When I checked out, I engaged in a little chit-chat with the clerk. When she saw that particular book, she remarked, “your children will love this.” I was a little embarrassed because that book was for me. I don’t have any children. I just smiled, nodded, and agreed with her, and felt so bad afterwards because I didn’t want to admit to buying a book of fairy tales.

                  Ok, so now I want you guys to reassure me and tell me there’s nothing wrong with an adult woman reading fairy tales.

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                  • Ha — greatly told story, Ana! Here’s your reassurance: There’s nothing wrong with an adult reading fairy tales — especially when the art is so striking. Some children’s lit is so appealing that a person of almost any age would like it. Certainly makes it easier to stay interested when reading those works to children, nieces, nephews, etc. — when not enjoying those works alone. πŸ™‚

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                  • Ana, just so you know, I have my own collection of leather-bound books, including Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, and Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales. I love these books, along with adult classics in the same vein, and I view them as works of art that let me just love them, even if I haven’t read them all cover-to-cover.

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                  • I own several books of fairy tales, unashamed. Some for the illustrations, some for the stories, some for both. I believe that the collection of fairy tales by such as the bothers Grimm is part of the 19th century movement to rediscover ancient, non-classical roots in ethnic and/or national cultures– same impulse that got us collections of folk songs. Valuable stuff! And not a few fairy tales have real psychological heft to them, and can be, to attentive readers, even revelatory.

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                    • I have copies of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales and “Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass” that were given to me by my sister about 55 years ago. I need to take them off the bookshelf and read them again!

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                  • Sorry I didn’t see this until just now, as I would have been very quick to say that I also love children’s books. And I never even thought to be embarrassed about it until I told a friend that I’d spent a big chunk of my week’s income on a collection of stories for children, and she was kind of ashamed for me. But it was my introduction to Antoine de Saint-ExupΓ©ry’s “The Little Prince” and I could never regret that. I also have a collection of Roald Dahl books, and a hardcover Sesame Street collection. All bought in my thirties πŸ™‚

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          • Hi anon welcome to Dave`s blog and nice to have met you…he is one of the nicest blogger and a great writer we all had the pleasure to encounter. Met him in HP post years ago.( never went back in there for the same reason you cited).
            I agree with you about the wonderful camaraderie we have in here.
            So many times I read others and not always post.

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          • Thanks for liking my comments on mystery and suspense novels. I bought a book many years ago, and I went to a bookstore in NYC and found a very small but packed store with just mysteries.. the bonus was the cat who lived among the ruins or mysteries and was part of the whole experience.

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            • Sounds like a GREAT bookstore, Kat Lib! When I was in Ann Arbor last week, I passed another bookstore devoted to mysteries, but didn’t have time to go in after having spent an hour in a more general independent bookstore.

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            • Was that store on the Upper West Side? I remember such a place, but don’t recall going in until very shortly before it closed or moved– and I don’t remember the name now, but I remember the cat, who would, in the off-hours, gravitate to the front window.

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              • I actually don’t remember where exactly it was, but it could have been there. It was quite small but held many mysteries, from top to bottom. I remember being in 7th heaven, and the cat sealed the deal for me.

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                  • jhNY, I think it was called “Murder, Inc.,” and there was a book that came out not long after (forgive me if I’m wrong), called “Murderess, Inc.” I also have a book that I haven’t completely read entitled “Books to Die For,” which was published in 2012 that was edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, that has excerpts from Edgar Allan Poe (“The Dupin Tales”) to Mark Gimenez “The Perk,” by Anne Perry.

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              • *going off topic briefly*

                As promised, my family friend outside of Nashville sent me a De Ford Bailey album and cassette tape. The album is unreal. I borrowed a record player from a neighbour…been playing this album non-stop. Bailey was serious on the harmonica. Incredible musician, and I can’t thank you enough for telling me about him.

                There is another Opryland album included in my gift that I’ve never heard of, a duo who went by the name of The Crook Brothers. My friend added something like a fact sheet inside the album, and it says here that the Crook Brothers were popular bluegrass artists. Have you ever heard of this duo? I like their songs on here, but this is the first time I have heard of them.

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                • Surprised to tell you, I don’t know the Crook Brothers– I looked them up and found their website (run by descendants), and though i know something about some of their bandmates, i know nothing about the Crooks themselves. I am intrigued, especially since they appear to have been the first group to record in Nashville, and because they featured a harmonica in their string band, and a fellow who played a two-finger style of banjo. Will high-tail it to youtube and check ’em out!

                  Thanks for telling me!

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                  • After a listen:

                    The Crook Brothers String Band appears to be a Nashville dance band– I wouldn’t call them bluegrass, but old time– the four tunes they recorded in 1928 are all simple dance tunes or breakdowns– bet they entertained locally with some success, which they parlayed into something bigger by the advantage of proximity to WSM, home of the Grand Ole Opry.

                    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Dave, I know there were many readers who hated “Gone Girl,” yet this novel surely falls among those who turned sharply from the beginning of the book. I’d also count “The Girl on the Train” among those same books who veer sharply away from the novel as written. Among others in that genre are “Sister” by Rosamund Lufton and “Afterwards.” by the same author. This is I know somewhat cowardly, but I feel it is the right thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kat Lib! I haven’t gotten a chance to read “Gone Girl” or “The Girl on the Train” yet. My current experience with a recent popular and literary blockbuster is Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” of which I’ve so far read 500-plus of its 700-plus pages and am VERY impressed. Definitely some twists in that, too.

      I appreciate you naming four novels with unexpected turns — and Happy New Year!

      Like

  10. Absolutely and Happy New year Dave !
    “Go Set a Watchman ” by Harper Lee Dave, the story was leaked long ago before it was published otherwise the Novel took a shocking turn where Atticus Finch our beloved character ended up being a racist bigot.
    There is simply no excuse for that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A very Happy New Year to you, too, bebe!

      That’s a GREAT example of a surprising turn you mentioned. Maybe one of the major shocks in literature.

      During my trip, I saw “Go Set a Watchman” in an Ann Arbor bookstore and was tempted to buy it, because I do want to read it, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the money to further enrich the publisher. An eventual library borrow…

      One of the books I did buy was “Make Me,” which you read. Can’t wait to start that recent Jack Reacher novel!

      Liked by 1 person

        • Now I’m looking forward to reading “Make Me” even more. πŸ™‚ Thanks, bebe! Jack Reacher novels are predictable in certain ways, but Lee Child does indeed move some of those great books in unexpected directions.

          Liked by 1 person

          • “The Racketeer ” by “John Grisham” another excellent thriller had so many turn turn turns . Grisham’s main character Malcolm Bannister is a former attorney serving a ten year sentence for a crime he didn’t commit execute an end-run around the powers-that-be. It is well a thought-out Grisham style thriller and Bannister is likable and has the reader rooting for him.

            I might buy “Rogue Lawyer”..by John Grisham`s the most sought after book in our City Public Library and still number one in NYT for the tenth week in a row. Grisham is getting better with age..initially I used to read all his books then stopped reading him for a number of years and now can`t wait to her hold of his latest ones.

            Classics I read in my college years and now I am back to thrillers and suspense.

            Liked by 1 person

  11. Welcome back, Dave. I hope you had a wonderful trip, as well as a great Christmas and New Year πŸ™‚

    A couple of years ago, I read two books quite close together that were very different from anything I’d read before, but kind of similar to each other. The first was Eleanor Gatton’s β€œThe Luminaries”. The second was David Mitchell’s β€œCloud Atlas”. Not only did the story lines in both of these excellent novels contain many twists and turns, but they were both written in a very surprising way. β€œThe Luminaries” is set over twelve very deliberate parts. The first part takes up almost half of the book, and chugs along quite nicely. Each part then gets shorter and shorter as the story races along quicker and quicker. The last part of the book is a mere page long. A very different book, however a very enjoyable one.

    And then β€œCloud Atlas” while also very different, felt kind of dΓ©jΓ  vu to me, as it was also set out in a very interesting way. This one was written over eleven deliberate parts, and in five very distinct styles. Beginning in the mid 1800s, each of the first five chapters captures a particular period in time, until it β€œculminates” in the middle chapter, and then goes back in time through each of the five periods again. The only problem with this format (as well as with β€œThe Luminaries” is that you feel like you’ve read the end long before you get there. However, I don’t think that detracts from the brilliance of either novel, especially not β€œCloud Atlas”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susan! Glad to be back. πŸ™‚ The trip WAS nice (albeit filled with too much driving). I hope your Christmas and New Year’s were great as well!

      “The Luminaries” does indeed take some twists and turns, as you ably describe. As you know, I read that novel a while back on your recommendation, and found it to be a memorable and amazingly crafted book.

      I haven’t read “Cloud Atlas” yet (it has been on my list for a while), but it also sounds full of complexity and unexpectedness.

      Like

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