14 May 2007

The power of a novel

As part of my abiding interest in people, their behaviour and their stories, I am always engrossed by novels where these matters are presented as multi-layered. One of my favourite authors is Jodi Picoult. I have gained much from all of her books and have recently finished reading Nineteen Minutes. Ostensibly a story about a mass killing in a high school, it shows how complex situations can come about through bullying.

People are complex and judging the way they act is not something that should be done on a superficial level. I like to understand what makes a person behave the way he or she does. All of Jodi Picoult's novels have helped me see why certain decisions may be made by characters in particular circumstances and how, perhaps, other options for actions may be available.

Today's news in Australia is that the NSW Supreme Court has awarded a lifetime of wages plus $213,000 to a boy who was bullied at school since the age of five. I'm not sure how I would have reacted to this news if I had heard it before I read
Nineteen Minutes. Having read the novel and absorbed the characters' grappling with their actions and the consequences of those actions, I can only feel sad that this child's life has been ruined.

Writing can be powerful and novels allow me to engage in one of my favourite pastimes - trying to get inside other people's heads; trying to understand. Never underestimate the power of a novel.


  1. I am a big fan of MS Picoult's work too. She is clever at setting the reader up to dislike / like a character and then realise their motivation. You can't help but feel empathy. "Walk a mile in their shoes."

  2. Sarah8:33 am

    Oh my gosh how much do you love Jodi Piccoult. She is just a great writer, her books are so "in the moment" sometimes it takes a second to come back to earth when you put them down. I just finished reading book by another author called, "We Need to Talk About Kevin", which is written from the perspective of a mother whose son has committed a high school shooting. It really is chilling, and terrifying to think that those happy little people running around our living rooms could be so easily disturbed. s


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