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  • Writer's pictureJane Langan

What Do I Look for In A Book? (Jane)

Following on from Ruth’s post – here’s a little bit about what I look for in a book.

Like Ruth, my tastes are eclectic, although I tend to lean more into dark speculative, fantasy and contemporary fiction. Having said that I still enjoy a classic.

The first book that really smacked me in the face and said notice me, was Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. I loved the characterisation; Pinkie Brown will always be in my top ten favourite anti-heroes.

This is probably the link between all the genres of books that I enjoy. I love a brooding irreverent protagonist. Preferably with a dark past. No wonder Heathcliff and Mr Rochester made such an impression.

In my teens I read every Catherine Cookson book I could get my hands on, they were about class, sex and what people will do to get ahead, but mostly they’re old-fashioned bodice rippers. Fab! Sometimes you just have to switch off and enjoy the ride. Nowadays, I read Beth O’Leary, when I need something light but with enough substance to keep me interested.

Over the years, I have read anything from Trainspotting (Irving Welsh) to IG84 (Haruki Murakami) to Good Omens (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman) to The Priory of the Orange Tree (Samantha Shannon) to Normal People (Sally Rooney) to The Night Tiger (Yangsze Choo) to Weaveworld (Horror).

In that mix, there’s historical, fantasy, speculative, horror & contemporary. The only thing I’m not really into, Ruth covers with her love for detective fiction, although I have read the odd P.D. James.

All I really want is a story that engages me from the get-go. Some interesting characters, who don’t always have to be likeable and have a sense of place. The Night Tiger, for example, is set in Malay (now Malaysia) in the 1920s, when there was still an imperialist presence overseeing the native people. The atmosphere of humidity and heat, with the oppression of the Europeans, creates a stew of emotion, scandal, fear, and folklore. It’s a brilliantly crafted book with great characters and one that will stay with me.

I also want to read stories I haven’t heard before or from a different, new perspective. For example, the coming-of-age story in Normal People is nothing new, but how it’s shown to the reader gives it a new perspective.

I will always love a magical witch book, probably because I, not very secretly, would love to be one. Who doesn’t love the Practical Magic series by Alice Hoffman? Similarly, I enjoy a female protagonist.

Both witches and women are very on-trend right now (and about time too!) – Just look at all the best-seller lists.

Ultimately, if you have written something that’s a good read, that you believe other people may be interested in, submit it – Ruth and I would love to see it. Just contact us on the form.

Have fun writing and become part of our community.

Jane x


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