I’m intrigued by subtext and, in particular, the space between the words in a novel.
Yet perhaps the most perfect example of this is not in a novel at all, but in a movie. It’s the little miracle that is Roman Holiday, starring a luminous Audrey Hepburn as a stifled princess. Gorgeous Gregory Peck plays against type as a distinctly dodgy expat newspaperman. They don’t have a Happy Ever After ending, either. Yet its perfect, mostly because of that extra layer of meaning.
Why Subtext in Roman Holiday is Interesting for Novelists
Many readers would say that Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird was a book that changed the way they thought about the racial divide in the USA. Many more were brought to the issues via the film of the same name, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.
The recent publication of Harper Lee’s earlier book Go Set A Watchman received very mixed reviews: some questioned whether the book should have been published at all, given its history; others were shocked by the racism and bigotry of Watchman’s Atticus. Interestingly, Ursula K Le Guin wrote that Watchman, “for all its faults and omissions, asks some of the hard questions To Kill A Mockingbird evades”. Which brings us neatly to…
Kingsblood Royal — tackling the Mockingbird theme, but better?
Our latest Love Letter to a Favourite Novel is about Kingsblood Royal, a book many of us will never have heard of, by Sinclair Lewis — an American author some readers will not have heard of, either, even though he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature (and wrote Elmer Gantry).
Peter, our passionate reader advocate, believes that Kingsblood Royal is “a much more powerful analysis of American racism than To Kill A Mockingbird“. Reading Lewis’s novel, Peter adds, made him feel “uncomfortable in a way that Harper Lee never quite managed”.
Peter doesn’t argue that Kingsblood Royal should replace To Kill A Mockingbird in our schools but he does make a forceful argument that Lewis’s book should be better known.
Hive members are convinced. Do read Peter’s Love Letter and see if you are, too.