Review: The Novel Cure – Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin

the novel cureA novel is a story transmitted from the novelist to the reader. It offers distraction, entertainment, and an opportunity to unwind or focus. But it can also be something more powerful—a way to learn about how to live. Read at the right moment in your life, a novel can—quite literally—change it.
 
The Novel Cure is a reminder of that power. To create this apothecary, the authors have trawled two thousand years of literature for novels that effectively promote happiness, health, and sanity, written by brilliant minds who knew what it meant to be human and wrote their life lessons into their fiction. Structured like a reference book, readers simply look up their ailment, be it agoraphobia, boredom, or a midlife crisis, and are given a novel to read as the antidote. Bibliotherapy does not discriminate between pains of the body and pains of the head (or heart). Aware that you’ve been cowardly? Pick up To Kill a Mockingbird for an injection of courage. Experiencing a sudden, acute fear of death? Read One Hundred Years of Solitude for some perspective on the larger cycle of life. Nervous about throwing a dinner party? Ali Smith’s There but for The will convince you that yours could never go that wrong. Whatever your condition, the prescription is simple: a novel (or two), to be read at regular intervals and in nice long chunks until you finish. Some treatments will lead to a complete cure. Others will offer solace, showing that you’re not the first to experience these emotions. The Novel Cure is also peppered with useful lists and sidebars recommending the best novels to read when you’re stuck in traffic or can’t fall asleep, the most important novels to read during every decade of life, and many more.
 
Brilliant in concept and deeply satisfying in execution, The Novel Cure belongs on everyone’s bookshelf and in every medicine cabinet. It will make even the most well-read fiction aficionado pick up a novel he’s never heard of, and see familiar ones with new eyes. Mostly, it will reaffirm literature’s ability to distract and transport, to resonate and reassure, to change the way we see the world and our place in it.

Rating: 4/5

This delightful book makes an ideal gift for any bibliophile. Laid out like a medical symptom book, The Novel Cure lists a number of ailments, from the serious to the silly, and prescribes various literary tonics to treat your condition.

From abandonment to failure, ‘determinedly chasing after a women even when she’s a nun’ to ‘being unable to find a cup of tea’, and motherhood to man flu, you’ll discover a whole lot of new suggestions for reading material, with specific descriptions on how they will help resolve your problem.

In addition, this collection also tackles a number of problems unique to book-lovers: being a compulsive book buyer, being too busy to read, put off by the hype, seduced by new books and overwhelmed by the number of books in your house/the world, to name but a few. Any of these sound familiar?

While at times the book can come across as a tad prescriptive in terms of one’s reading habits, it’s definitely a help in exposing you to new kinds of literature/books you might not have tried out before – and what’s more, their cures may very well work! I shall have to do some research and see…

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8 thoughts on “Review: The Novel Cure – Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin

  1. I actually read something similar a month ago, and I thought it was ingenious. We never really put stock into the healing qualities of books, and I’m so glad that books such as this one and the one I read tackled this subject. I may have to add this one on my pile. 🙂

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  2. This sounds like a non-fiction version of The Little Bookshop In Paris? Definitely sound like a bibliophile’s dream. Most of life’s problems are solved by books (except the bookshelving issues, I still haven’t figured that one out, haha)

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