11 August 2007

A sense of place

I am always fascinated and awed by the capacity of some writers to evoke a powerful sense of place. It's a talent I lack, and envy.

Martin Cruz Smith, I am told, spent only a fortnight in Moscow before writing Gorki Park; but that novel is utterly convincing in its depiction of a city as I used to know it.

I've just read Joanne Harris's Coastliners., which is where this train of thought started. I have no idea, never having lived on one myself, whether her description of life on a small French island is true to life; but it is certainly utterly convincing. My first Harris novel was Five Quarters of the Orange; that too was evocative and convincing, enough so to propel me on through the rest of her work. Holy Fools, I feel, didn't work so well; but nobody is perfect.

Fiction is a country in its own right, and doesn't have to correspond with physical realities; to be internally convincing and consistent is the thing, and Harris pulls it off powerfully.

  1. Smith, M.C., Gorky Park. 1981, London, Pan, 1996. 033026673X
  2. Harris, J., Coastliners. 2003, London, Black Swan. 0552998850.
  3. Harris, J., Five quarters of the orange. 2001, London, Black Swan, 2002. 0552998834
  4. Harris, J., Holy fools. 2004, London, Black Swan. 0552770019

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