Monday, 3 October 2011

Endless chick-lit

Still the talk goes on about how the women's commercial fiction genre is in recession with the genre's household names watching their sales fall. Jodi Picoult's name crops up in several articles, and though I wouldn’t have classed her as a chick-lit author she certainly comes in under women’s commercial fiction.

The facts are plain. Her book Picture Perfect (Hodder Paperback, June 2010) sold 238,832 copies in its first two months on shelves, but with Harvesting the Heart (Hodder Paperback, June 2011) sales fell by almost 50% to just 120,235 copies.

I’ve read a couple of Picoult’s titles and have heard her speak at Hexham Literary Festival. The first few titles I enjoyed, but it’s an odd kind of enjoyment when the characters are so tortured, and to be honest I can’t face having my emotions wrenched about any more. Perhaps other readers feel the same, and Picoult’s vogue has passed. This may be the answer in general. After all, how many titles in a similar genre can you read before ennui sets in? By the time I’d ploughed my way through all the James Bond stories, I think I’d be heartily sick of them and wouldn’t want another. I’ve read a good few Nora Roberts but now pass them by on the shelves because I know how she develops her characters and ties up her stories. Perhaps the charm and success of Jane Austen is that hers is a limited output, so small that the reader is left wanting more. Had she written twenty-five novels, we’d maybe tire of her writing too.

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