I’ve just finished reading The Novelist by Angela Hunt and I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised. Why surprised? Probably because I was expecting something quite different.
I first heard of Hunt a few months ago just before attending the Southern Christian Writer’s Conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Not why I attended, she was the keynote speaker—and was very entertaining. When I realized she would also be the keynote speaker for the ACFW Conference, I decided to look up a little more about her. Someone on the ACFW forums recommended The Novelist and I liked the title, so I picked it up even though I was a leeetle afraid it might be a romance book. I’d picked up other books by ACFW members and haven’t enjoyed one yet. No, I didn’t write about them here and no, I won’t. It’s not necessarily that they were bad books, but they’ve been heavily romance and the romance genre—and all its many offshoots—just doesn’t interest me. Obviously there is a market for it, but “I” am not part of it.
So I wanted to have read Hunt’s book before the conference just so that I could say that I’ve read something by her. The Novelist sat on my desk—in my way, actually—while I’ve worked my way through Liberal Fascism. LF is one heavy read and I’m not finished with it yet—I have to think too much while I read it. But as it grew obvious that I wasn’t going to finish LF before the conference, I set it aside a few days before and started on The Novelist.
I was immediately captured.
The Novelist is about…well, a novelist. This female novelist takes a job as a part-time instructor teaching a single fiction class at a community college. What Hunt didn’t say is that these “part-time” teachers are called Adjuncts and aren’t less qualified, they just get fewer classes and far less money. I know—I’ve been one. This teacher/novelist writes action/adventure bestsellers and most fans assume she is a male because her name is one of those non-gender specific names. Immediately many in the class are surprised but she sets about converting them and then teaching them “how” to write a novel.
One of the very cool things about it, is that one of the students challenges her to write something more personal that her action/adventure hero (which she often refers to as a “superhero”—something which slightly irritates me as a “real” superhero writer/editor/reader and fan. From what I can fathom, there is nothing “super” about her hero—he’s more like James Bond) and we actually witness the composition process throughout the work. By that I mean we get to read what the novelist has written and get sucked right into it as well. A very cool concept, I think, and Hunt pulls it off very well.
Add on top of this that the novelist has a still-lives-at-home 21 year old son who is no end of problems for the novelist and her husband, and it makes for a pretty interesting read.
The only other thing that shook me out of the “world” was Hunt suggested the class began with 40 students. While I’m not saying it couldn’t happen—she probably did research and found it somewhere—I think it is highly unlikely for a class of this sort. Granted it has been several years since I had my fiction classes, but never did they contain that many students, and USM is known for its Creative Writing program. Freshman level had 20-25, and all other classes had 15 or less. Even when I taught Composition at a Community College, 25 was the maximum number of students allowed in the classroom…and I found that was plenty!
Those minor annoyances and issues aside, The Novelist was a very pleasant read and I easily and readily recommend it to all.