Although I had an uneven reading experience with Margaret Forster's Diary of an Ordinary Woman, I have to say I loved the format. I might not want every book I read to be made up of diary entries or letters, and epistolary novels may have their drawbacks (it's amazing how a letter writer might be able to remember entire conversations, for example), I think when they're done well, they can be great fun to read (not to mention an entirely different way of getting inside a character's head). Hopefully I'm using the term 'epistolary novel' correctly as a blanket term for diaries and letters. When I finished with Forster, I thought I would like to read another novel written in the form of a diary. I started wondering what else I might have on hand, so I scanned my shelves for possibilities. I thought I might not find many books at all, but I ended up with a nice list (perfect for a Thursday Thirteen). For once I've actually read nearly all these books (which shows how much I really do like this sort of novel). If you can think of other epistolary novels, I'd love to get more reading suggestions. Here's what I came up with:
- The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins - I loved this book and it's not even my favorite Wilkie Collins novel, partly told through the use of letters
- 84, Charing Cross Road, Helen Hanff - Delightful isn't a word I use in my everyday conversation, but it fits this book to a 'T' more than any other book I can think of. You might already be familiar with it--letters exchanged between Hanff and a gentleman working in a second hand bookstore in London. It takes place during the 1940s. It's a very bookish novel and highly recommended (all her books are wonderful actually).
- A Woman of Independent Means, Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey - Once again this is a novel about one woman's long life, but it's told through her letters. I read it ages ago, so the details are hazy, but I recall enjoying it very much and giving it to friends.
- Clarissa, Samuel Richardson - Maybe this is the granddaddy of epistolary novels? I know this form was quite popular in the 18th century. I have it, will read it someday. (Though maybe I'll start with the shorter Pamela, which is also an epistolary novel).
- Lady Susan, Jane Austen - I read this for the Slaves last year. I liked it, though it is so different than Austen's other work. Lady Susan wasn't the easiest person to like, as a matter of fact it's quite a jump to Elizabeth Bennet from Lady Susan!
- Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe and The Last Great Dance on Earth, Sandra Gulland - These are wonderful novels about the life of Josephine--from her birth on Martinique through her life with Napoleon and after. I wouldn't eve mind rereading them.
- The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields - This is a recent purchase for me. I thought it might be fun to compare Daisy Goodwill's life to Millicent King. Both the Shields book and the Forster are set in about the same period though Shields is a Canadian author and I think the book is also set in the US.
- Dracula, Bram Stoker - Another wonderful novel made up of letters and diary entries.
- Diary of an Ordinary Woman, Margaret Forster - See link above to read my thoughts on this novel.
- Freedom and Necessity, Steven Brust and Emma Bull - I've not read this yet, but it's one of those books I keep picking up and planning on reading, but then not getting to it. It was recommended to me when I was looking for books for Carl's fantasy reading challenge last year. It has a Victorian setting, but there is also fantasy and adventure thrown in as well. It sounds so intriguing and I've heard all sorts of good things about it.
- Primrose Past: The 1848 Journal of Young Lady Primrose, Caroline Rose Hunt - I read this ages and ages ago. It is written in diary format of a young Victorian lady. I always thought the author would write a sequel, but I never came across anything, which is a pity.
- Frankenstein, Mary Shelley - Dorothy's recent posts on this novel make me want to read it again. Another story told through the use of letters.
- Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos - I was all set to read this a couple of summers ago, but it didn't come to pass. The story is told entirely through letters if I've read correctly. I've seen the movie--a story of love, and seduction and betrayal, but I bet the book is better.
What have I missed? Plenty, I'm sure!