How to Read a Novel

Perugini, Charles Edward; Girl Reading; Manchester Art Gallery;

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This is the book club you always wanted to be part of. Hosted by Henry Oliver, who writes about literature at The Common Reader.

Do you want to read more classic fiction? Do you want to know more about how novels work, their technique? Do you want to do this in a low pressure bookclub-style setting? In this series, we will learn how novels work: the clues that novelists leave us. Each book is a tapestry. All the threads work together. Nothing is there for no good reason. As we learn more, we become better readers.

Salons run 7 PM London time on the first Tuesday of every month, except for January 2023 where it is on the second Tuesday.

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In addition to series tickets, members get access to our community Discord (with a channel for this series to chat between events)—as well as free salon tickets each month, discounts, free members-only events, and more.

1Sept. 6, 2022Part I, Beginnings — Persuasion, Jane Austen.

We start with Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last novel. Why does it have such an unromantic opening? And what can we learn from novels openings in general?
2Oct. 4, 2022Part II, Morality — Silas Marner, George Eliot.

Our second novel is Silas Marner, George Eliot’s fable of fortune. How can a book that is so realistic also be read like a fairytale? What is the role of morality in a novel?
3Nov. 1, 2022Part III, Pattern — A Room with a View, E.M. Forster.

Third is A Room with a View, Forster’s social comedy and romance. What patterns of allusion, metaphor, and figurative language give this novel its structure? How do description and plotting work together?
4Dec. 6, 2022Part IV, Character — The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen.

Fourth is The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen’s compelling novel about a group of amoral characters and a young woman coming of age. Bowen has a genius for character. How does she make them so real?
5Jan. 10, 2023Part V, Irony — The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro.

Ishiguro’s hit novel about a butler that doesn’t understand the world. What is irony? How can it work for moral as well as comedic purposes?
6Feb. 7, 2023Part VI, Precision — The Gate of Angels, Penelope Fitzgerald.

The Gate of Angels, a hugely precise novel about Edwardian Cambridge. We will be asking the same question as the critics. How does she do it?

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