I have a friend who won’t read fiction. ‘If it’s made up,’ he says, ‘it doesn’t count.’ I’ve just read two novels that might change his mind.
Ann Patchett’s first novel has echoes of her latest, Commonwealth, in that both have enigmatic characters. Her first, Patron Saint of Liars is about Rose, a kind and competent woman who wreaks havoc on those who love her.
In Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, the eponymous character is an unlikable and difficult woman for whom the reader comes to have great sympathy and affection.
What I should – shall – say to my friend is that good fiction gives one the chance to know people in a way that biographies and memoirs can rarely achieve. On a very basic level, good fiction makes one want to do better and be kinder. That’s not a bad resolution for 2017.
Have a very happy Christmas and a brilliant New Year!