Readings For Writers: Pick(s) of the Week 9/12/14

Every week, a member of the Grub community recommends a book they find helpful or inspirational from a craft perspective. This week, instructor Sophie Powell recommends two of her favorite novels. 

You Remind Me Of Me by Dan Chaon is one of the novels I often mention to students – one of those beautiful and deeply moving works that stays with you for years and years. It is also particularly noteworthy from a craft perspective. Its structure is unusually complicated, using multiple points of view and fractured chronology. Yet Chaon manages to pull it off. The structure might be more complicated than most novels, but it is not confusing. By heading each chapter with a clear date, we are never lost.  Each chapter is dedicated to one point of view at a time. Dan Chaon shows that it can be done: writing in multiple points of view, in a non-linear way. You just have to be careful and consistent.

Most recently, I read and, completely fell in love with, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by the British writer Rachel Joyce. Unlike Chaon’s novel, Joyce’s work follows a more predictable structure – we have alternating chapters from Harold’s point of view versus his wife’s point of view, and the action takes place within a short time period (a few months). Yet from this novel, also, so much can be learned. Joyce is particularly good at layering backstory with action, and at developing character through plot. I’ll definitely be discussing this novel in my next Novel In Progress workshop in the fall.

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About the Author

Sophie Powell grew up in London and on a sheep farm in Wales. She is the author of the novel The Mushroom Man (Putnam Penguin) which received glowing reviews, including one from the New York Times Book Review, and which has been translated into several languages. She has also published short stories, including one in a collection selected by Zadie Smith. With a BA in Classics from Cambridge University and an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, she is especially fond of writing that involves myth, magic and fantasy. She has taught Creative Writing at Boston College, New York University, George Washington University and on seminars abroad, as well as in prisons and libraries. For more about Sophie, visit www.meetsophiepowell.com.

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