A Suitable Boy is said to be one of the longest, if not THE longest, novel to be published in a single volume. Having now accomplished reading it, I wondered what other very long novels I can claim to have completed.
Identifying a long novel can be tricky. Going by number of pages is problematic for the obvious reason that page size, type size and margin size can vary. Word count can be a better way, though some insist on character count. Then there is the question of where a novel begins and ends. I consider The Lord of the Rings to be a single novel because it was written as one and was only first published as three for other reasons. But what about other book series? Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels? Proust’s In Search of Lost Time? Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time? Should these also be considered ‘one novel’ in several volumes? Then, there is the question of literature that predates the modern novel or that does not fit neatly into an admittedly Western definition of one.
But I don’t think these issues should necessarily trouble me today. I think it is pretty clear which novels I have read are the longest just by casting my eyes over my shelves. The novels I have read, and that I perceive to be the longest, include:
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky
The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
Middlesex by George Eliot (Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides just missed this list)
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
Anna Karenina and War and Peace by Tolstoy
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Stand and Needful Things by Stephen King
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
And now, A Suitable Boy makes the list too. One other I have read, that may not meet the definition of a ‘novel’ is The Shahnameh – the Persian Book of Kings by Ferdowsi.
There are a lot of long novels on my shelves that I plan on reading too, and they include:
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (on my Reading List this year!)
Bleak House and David Copperfield by Dickens
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Good Soldier Svejk by Hašek
Ulysses by Joyce
The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (on my Reading List this year!)
Kristen Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
I’m going to get around to Boccaccio’s Decameron too; I’m not sure if this counts as a ‘novel’ either. Also, is Murakami’s 1Q84 a trilogy or, like The Lord of the Rings, should it be considered one novel?
One I do not have a copy of on my shelves is Les Misérables by Hugo. I’m still not sure if I want to take on that behemoth!
I wonder if any visitors here have read many of these or any other very long novels. Does anyone think I ought to read Les Mis?