Ten difficult books worth reading
The Waves, Virginia Woolf
Woolf set out to “record the atoms as they fall upon the mind” and The Waves is an experiment in doing this without the usual narrative scaffolding. The lives of six characters are told through their revolving thoughts. This can feel hard to navigate, but if you persevere there’s an intense sensory world to be discovered.
The Golden Bowl, Henry James
James is notorious for his complicatedly meandering sentences and this late novel takes it to a new level. It’s not only the prose that’s difficult, the plot itself becomes more about what characters know about each other than what they are actually doing. It’s the ultimate novel for people interested in charting every nuance and detail of human relationships.
The legacies of slavery and their intersections with patriarchy might seem subjects too difficult for scrupulous novelistic treatment. Morrison’s book throws the discoveries of high modernist style and the fiery drives of gothic horror at the task and creates something uniquely unsettling and appallingly convincing. Beloved makes readers suffer, but our suffering enlarges our world. Ishiguro’s Booker prize-
Beloved, Toni Morrison The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro