The Alchemy of a Story

What makes a good book a great book?  

A question that has been debated by far more brilliant minds than mine.  But what the heck!  Let’s pour out some more tea, pull up a chair and see what we come up with.

I just finished reading two books –

“Murder Most Austen” by Tracy Kiely and “The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham.

They were both good books, but only Maugham’s was a great book.  But before you go all I-knew-you-were-going-to-say-that, let me just take a moment to say why.

The Kiely book was everything it said it was going to be.  It was fun and charming and it took me away to The Jane Austen Festival in Bath, where I have always wanted to go.  The author kept me interested in the story and her descriptions were well written enough to where I felt the experience of the festival, as much as the heroine.  This book helped me accomplish a goal.  It had aided in my escape from the realities of an almost fifty-year old working mother.

But it didn’t make me….feel. 

Maugham did that.  In his meandering, lengthy character study, with no great plot twists, he somehow poked a hole in me and I felt.  When I closed the book last night, I lay in my bed with the melancholy of a trip ended, a passage closed.  Larry, Isabel, Sophie, Eliot, they were truly gone and I felt such an emptiness.  But they were never real people.  They were only words on a page…letters strung together.

Words and letters only….words and letters that made me feel.

How is that possible?

I can’t even being to contemplate.

But isn’t it amazing.

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