Don Quixote with a lance less lengthy than the book in which he stars.
I mentioned The Winds of War in last week’s post but will mention it again today because it’s a long novel that I’m still reading. But what theme can I think of that would warrant giving that 885-page book a second consecutive mention? Hmm…how about a post discussing long novels I’ve read and liked? 🙂
Herman Wouk’s World War II-themed novel is certainly holding my interest — and part of the reason is its length. All those hundreds of pages are helping me get to really “know” the characters and see how they mature and react to things as time goes by. Plus it can be wonderful to get totally absorbed in a novel’s world for a couple weeks — and a reader can’t help but be impressed by the time, research, and prodigious effort that go into writing a doorstop book.
Of course, there are also downsides to long novels. They can drag in spots (though this is not always the case) and they take time away from other books. You’ll spend about the same number of hours reading a 1,000-page novel as four 250-page novels, if my math is correct. 🙂
The title that most comes to mind when thinking of fiction “tomes” is Leo Tolstoy’s iconic War and Peace, which clocks in at 1,440 pages in at least one edition. Fortunately, it’s a very readable novel.
Also very readable, and often quite funny, is Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote — 1,056 pages in an edition I saw listed online. Victor Hugo’s mesmerizing Les Miserables? 1,232 pages. Stephen King’s apocalyptic The Stand? 1,152 pages.
Among other in-the-vicinity-of-1,000-page novels I’ve read are Alexandre Dumas’ scintillating The Count of Monte Cristo and James Clavell’s breathtaking Shogun.
In the 700-plus or 800-plus-page realm? Fyodor Dostoevsky’s tour de force The Brothers Karamazov, George Eliot’s masterful Middlemarch, Charles Dickens’ compelling David Copperfield, Herman Melville’s whale of a book Moby-Dick, W. Somerset Maugham’s memorable Of Human Bondage, William Thackeray’s vivid Vanity Fair, Donna Tartt’s riveting The Goldfinch, Eleanor Catton’s eye-opening The Luminaries, Henry Fielding’s colorful Tom Jones, Don DeLillo’s uneven Underworld, etc.
Of course, trilogies (such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) and longer series (such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books) can stretch over a thousand or several thousand pages, but I’m focusing on stand-alone novels in this blog post. There ARE individual novels within a series — such as Diana Gabaldon’s eight-volume-soon-to-be-nine-volume Outlander saga — that are each 1,000-plus pages.
Then there’s Marcel Proust’s seven-volume In Search of Lost Time, which goes on for a whopping 4,000-plus pages. I only read part of it before giving up, so I really shouldn’t discuss it much here. I found the writing beautiful but also kind of tedious at times.
This blog post has mentioned only a short list of long books. Your favorite doorstop novels?
Speaking of long, here’s my favorite song by the hugely underrated band Renaissance. The “Ashes Are Burning” version I linked to is 12 minutes, but the band extended it to about 30 minutes (!) at some concerts.
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” local topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about an impressive women’s march for reproductive rights, a raise for teachers, and more — is here.