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Susanna Clarke

Jul 22 2011

ShareReads: Stretching the Boundaries

by Dea Anne M

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

One of my favorite literary characters is Maisie Dobbs, the entrancing sleuth/heroine of the eponymous series by Jacqueline Winspear. I recently finished the eighth book in the series A Lesson in Secrets and found it nearly impossible to put down. This has been my experience with every book in this wonderful series and part of the reason is that the books transcend their “genre niche.” A reader can experience the Maisie Dobbs books as satisfying mysteries, of course, but these books also work on a more “literary” level. Winspear’s depth of characterization along with her evocation of place and a subtly nuanced emotional tone elevate these books (in my opinion) to a different category of writing.

Are you interested in reading some “genre busting” fiction? Many readers regard China Miéville as an author whose writing provides a consistently high level of quality as well as a unique approach to a variety of genres. In particular, check out The City & the City, Mieville’s take on the hard-boiled detective story, and Perdido Street Station, an urban fantasy (although that capsule description doesn’t do this intricate book justice).

Another genre stretching novel that I have enjoyed and highly recommend is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which skillfully blends the traditions of the British social comedy with folklore and fairy tales. I also found Michael Chabon’s interpretation of the noir detective novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, very interesting although maybe a bit over the top with the tough guy flourishes.

Some other authors widely considered genre-stretchers:

Do you like exploring fiction that stretches genre? What books have you particularly enjoyed?