10.1.13

A Jane Gardam Künstlerroman for Readers Young and No Longer Young

A Long Way From Verona by Jane Gardam is a brilliantly funny novel about a thirteen-year-old girl named Jessica Vye.  I think of all the books I have loved by Gardam this is the one I love best.  But I am confused by descriptions of it as a children's book or a young adult novel.  It is only a young adult novel in the way that Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a novel for young adults.  Like that book, A Long Way from Verona is a Künstlerroman (such a useful word, although difficult to pull off in casual conversation) or a novel of formation of an artist, in this case a writer.

I am now going to set aside part of my day to considering what makes a novel a young adult novel and whether it is possible to draw such conclusions from the age of the protagonist.  There are many young adult novels that I love deeply: Meg Rosoff's What I Was, Susan Juby's Alice, I Think, and Sonya Harnett's The Ghost Child spring immediately to mind.  I have no qualms about the idea of offering those novels up to the thirteen-year-old reader but my fear is that because of their categorization they will be missed by the thirty or forty-something reader who could reap their wisdom in quite a different way.  

To demonstrate this theory I offer up the painfully funny opening paragraphs of Gardam's novel and suggest that whatever your age you might want to search for a copy of the book for your own enjoyment.




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