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[personal profile] walkitout
There is just nothing like typing in a book title and realizing that I have recently read another book with the exact same title. Weird.

Okay. This 1994 first entry in the/an Irish trilogy by Nora Roberts is pretty much exactly what I expect from Nora Roberts. It was this month's book club selection in Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). We had light turnout; four of us. I am the only romance reader of the people who appeared. Everyone finished the book. The only other reader of genre books of the four is the librarian, who reads mysteries (she reads _everything_ -- she's so much fun to listen to about books and everything else, really). We have been reading books by / about women this year, and it's been really great. We wanted to do a genre romance, and I pushed hard to get Nora Roberts because I perceived her to have broad appeal and to be really accessible even to non-genre readers. Here was my big chance to find out if that perception was true!

It was. Everyone finished the book and gave it 3 out of 5 stars (except one person gave it 4, amazingly). The two non genre readers said they probably wouldn't read either more by the author or another romance book, but seemed glad to have read it and had the chance to talk about it. I was super excited to get a chance to listen to people encounter a genre romance without _any_ knowledge of the tropes / genre conventions / etc. One person really like some of the more poetic language (which is _not_ any part of any romance novels appeal to me, so interesting to hear that mentioned). Not unexpectedly, my friend A. enjoyed learning a little about glass blowing, as the heroine is a glass artist.

A couple readers felt like there was some plot machinery to get the characters moving through the romance (the first kiss was jarring, for example). However, while they felt that particular scenes were out of character, they felt the characters were believable and well-enough developed. Everyone felt like the novel was easy to stick with and carried them along.

Obviously, the librarian (because she's good at her job) is well aware of the consumption patterns of genre readers. Equally (ha ha ha ha) so am I. But it was complete news to the other two, and I must admit to enjoying the look of shock on their faces when I rattled off the various layers of how-many-books-a-year among genre readers, and explained what the genre reader is expected to bring to reading the book and what is expected of the author.

I was struck by a comment from M. (not the librarian). She wanted to know how genre readers remembered the books. To her, this book was very predictable (and of course it is -- that's the point. It isn't where you are going, it is the details along the way), and she wondered how we could remember characters etc. when reading so much. I have noticed that M. and A. (heck, just about everyone in the group, with a possible exception) often have forgotten plot, character, setting, etc. details only a few weeks after finishing a book. (Look, I'm not imagining things. I do tend to read the book the day of the group, because I want it absolutely crystal clear in my brain, but even if I read it ahead of time, or skip reading it because I read it some years earlier, I frequently find myself locating a passage that the other person can barely describe, or which I want to draw attention to for a particular detail -- and they all struggle with this, even with a lot of post its and so forth). I wonder if genre readers are readers who, through those weird flukes of genetics or whatever, are magpies for detail, and thus have no problems retaining character names and relationships and quirks and so forth. Thus, the plot can be much more complex, or the nuances of the relationship development (in the case of a romance) can be front-and-center because we're not expending much energy on Wait Who Is This Person? And a lot of literary fiction has "quirky" characters in part to help people keep track of who is who as they travel through the book.

I don't know if that's true, but it sure had never even occurred to me as a possibility before this. It would also explain that weird phenomenon where in junior high and high school, english teachers routinely assigned short classics that were wicked slogs, and all the people who never read got through them at roughly the same pace that I got through them. There is _something_ about those books that is resistant to genre-style reading techniques and contains enough to generate discussion in a short number of words. Slow readers are slow and not _further_ slowed down by what bogs a genre reader down to a painful drag. It's a thought, anyway.

Date: 2017-08-30 11:11 pm (UTC)
ethelmay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ethelmay
I'm a magpie for detail, goodness knows, but I also forget stuff easily (I have been known to reread a murder mystery two or three times before reliably remembering whodunit). C.S. Lewis once said a book he'd read only once was no good to him, and I'm the same way.

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