There are many good writers out there; a few of them published and even less become truly successful. However, there will always be those whose writing sticks in your head so persistently that you find it completely impossible to pick up another book for days, perhaps weeks. To me, this is the sign of a remarkable book. As you hungrily read the last page, the last paragraph, the last word you can spend a few treasured moments wallowing in contentment, allowing not only the story to wash over you but the language.
Of course, eventually you will be hit with a wave of loss. You are now spoiled for any other writer; nothing can wipe away the memory of that authors’ exquisite writing. You find yourself smiling to yourself at odd moments as parts of the plot rush back to you, or perhaps you realise people around you resemble the characterisations intimately described in the book.
One such book would be ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. I know you can argue the language is only so seductive as it represents a by-gone era of chivalry, romance and culture but you can’t help but lose yourself. The first chapter starts:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”
However sexist it is, I can’t help myself but settle back in my chairs, snuggle down and smile, knowing I am in for a satisfying ride in a society which may seem familiar and yet never fails to surprise and amuse as the lives of Elizabeth, Jane and of course the enigmatic Mr. Darcy unravel in a tale of love, betrayal, snobbery and tradition.
In a way modern authors will struggle to compete which such style as they draw upon modern experiences and modern language, neither of which enchants the reader as effectively. Of course this is different for different people, do any authors have this affect on you?
More modern books which have stayed with me include ‘The Kite Runner’, a fascinating tale of a young man who escapes Afghanistan as a boy only to return later in search of redemption and acceptance. This tale, told by Khaled Hosseini, portrays Afghanistan as it once was – a country of beauty, friendship and community – before it was torn apart by war and conflict.
Sometimes it is the style of writing, sometimes the plot, or the message behind the words that attracts you to a story and causes it to remain with you. Shivers travel down you spine as quotes or the general tone or style returns at odd moments. This is the sign of a truly remarkable achievement all writers aspire to but few ever attain. Sadly for most it will not occur until after their death as new language emerges which eventually renders their style mysterious and unattainable.