Thursday, 22 August 2013

Lives of the Novelists- John Sutherland

Lives of the Novelists, subtitled 'A history of fiction in 294 lives' is a collection of short biographies covering influential authors over five centuries.  At over 800 pages long, this great tome of a book is obviously the result of an incredible amount of research from Sutherland. 

Most of the biographies are around three pages long, which is enough to give a flavour of the life the author led.  Sutherland references both the most highly regarded and the overlooked,  so even the widely read will learn something from this work.  At the end of each biography there is the authors full name, 'must read text' and a suggestion of a biography for further reading.

Lives of the Novelists could be read from cover to cover (as I did- I felt that by reading it chronologically I was able to get an overview of social changes from the 1600s onwards as well as learning about influential authors) or could be used as a reference material to be dipped in and out of.  Possibly a useful resource for literature students, John Sutherland's labour of love reinforces just how many authors meet a tragic end or live an unfulfilled life despite success.  It should also come with a warning-I have added a huge amount of books to my 'must read' list as a result of it!

If you are looking for an accessible, comprehensive overview of writers' lives then Lives of the Novelists could be just what you're looking for. 

Lives of the Novelists: A history of fiction in 294 lives is out in paperback today, published by Profile.


With thanks to Profile for providing me with a copy of Lives of the Novelists in return for an honest review.

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