There's a particular joy in getting engrossed in a really great novel. I felt it for the first time when I was 6 years old. At that age, I progressed in a few months from reading "See Spot Run" to reading 'big books,' that is, chapter books for much older kids. My rapid evolution wasn't due to anything about my intelligence, alas. It was due to the joy...the delight and pleasure...of being grabbed by a well-told story. That joy inspired me with a longing: the longing to write novels. It's that joy and that longing that have led me through my life. Literally. I came from a family where no one had gone to college in generations, and I went to Yale at 17 because I was so motivated by the joy and the longing intrinsic to reading and writing. I still read continuously. I also read indiscriminately. It's all market research. Unfortunately, so much popular fiction inspires only boredom and the same kind of icky self-loathing you get after eating a Big Mac and a shake, or a Twinkie. I say it regularly: there are good reasons why the legacy publishers are foundering. The poorly written, gimmicky popular books, and the unlikeable protagonists, faux depth, poseur angst, and, well, general self-important silliness of that which has been anointed as "literature," are among the reasons. But there are great writers writing great fiction: Sue Grafton. Greg Iles. Richard North Patterson, when his work isn't too self-reflective and self-congratulatory. Then there is Daniel Silva. I opened The English Girl yesterday and by the middle of the first chapter, all that juicy joy and longing had erupted within me. This reader was delightedly and gratefully in the hands of a Master. The English Girl is beautifully written, line for line. It's a pleasure to read on the level of appreciating well-crafted prose. Silva has a fine ear for music in the language, and his diction is thoughtful and often quite lovely. Best of all, this novel works superbly as a story. It sets out the stakes right from the beginning, and then the screws tighten, and the suspense builds. The characters are three dimensional, unique, and unexpected. They don't quite ever get what they want. Gabriel Allon, the wry and likable art restorer-spy, wants peace. I doubt he'll ever get it. Remember: those are two of my rules for writing novels: One, story is how your protagonist does NOT get what he or she wants, and two, what are the stakes? So I recommend The English Girl. It's an exciting five star read. It's engrossing. It makes you think and it makes you care. It's fun!
The English Girl: A Novel (Gabriel Allon) Disclaimer: clicking on the links above takes you to Amazon via my affiliate link.