ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Best Contemporary Epistolary Novels

Updated on June 22, 2013
Epistolary novels are books written in the form of letters, diary entries, or articles.
Epistolary novels are books written in the form of letters, diary entries, or articles. | Source

What is an Epistolary Novel?

While it sounds highbrow, an "epistolary novel" is really just a novel written in the form of letters, though it can also be used to refer to a novel written in the form of a diary or articles. The first epistolary novel was written in the 17th century, and while it has fallen in and out of favor since then, modern novels still use the technique--some of them even using emails instead of a traditional narrative.

While the epistolary format of a novel can be frustrating--you're getting only one character's view and perspective on events at a time, and have to decide how reliable that narrator is--it can also be fun and uniquely effective.

Read on for some of the best contemporary epistolary novels.

More About the Book

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrow's "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" stands out as not only the best epistolary novel I've read, but also one of the best novels I've read period.

Sparkling, fun, with moments of tragedy and sorrow, it's an affecting read. In the novel, Juliet Ashton is a very popular novelist looking for inspiration following the end of World War II. She receives a letter from a man who lives on the island of Guernsey, and she begins to exchange letters with him, and eventually travels to Guernsey itself.

"The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society" has romance, plenty of gems for literature lovers, and a cast of eccentric, memorable characters. If you're looking for an introduction to the world of epistolary novels, this is a great one.



Source

Ella Minnow Pea

"Ella Minnow Pea," by Mark Dunn, is another excellent modern epistolary novel. Ella Minnow Pea is a young woman living on the island of Nollop, named after the man who wrote the sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" (which uses all of the letters of the alphabet). When the letters of that sentence begin to fall from his statue, the island's Council decides Neville Nollop is trying to send them a message--that he no longer wants the island's inhabitants to use those letters, making use of them a criminal offense.

As more and more letters fall to the ground, the characters find increasingly inventive ways to make their points and share information without using the forbidden symbols, which is immensely fun for the reader and also addresses issues of freedom of expression and oppressive, bumbling governments.


"Bridget Jones's Diary" Film Trailer

Bridget Jones's Diary

When you hear the words "Bridget Jones's Diary," you probably think of the Renee Zellweger movie in which she put on a convincing British accent and got "chubby" (read: normal sized). However, it's actually a novel by Helen Fielding, and is also considered the mother of all those fluffy, pastel-covered chick lit novels you see at the book store.

"Bridget Jones's Diary" is not at all like the empty stories its success spawned, though, other than the fact that it's about a modern-day woman struggling with weight, romance, and other everywoman issues.The novel, written in the form of diary entries, is sharp and funny, and Bridget is a likeable, realistically flawed character who seems like a best friend by the time you read the last page.

"The Color Purple" Film Trailer

The Color Purple

While the other entries in this list are lighter in tone, if you're looking for a more literary modern epistolary novel, try turning to "The Color Purple." Written by Alice Walker, it tells the story of Celie, a young black woman who is abused by her father and then by her husband. Her letters span twenty years, and through that time she grows into a strong and determined woman, learning about love, self-respect, and self-worth from her best friend Shug.

If you're offended by thematic material, including sometimes graphic depictions of sexuality and violence, this read might make you uncomfortable--but it nevertheless is a spellbinding, touching story that won't quickly leave your mind.



Other Epistolary Novels

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Dracula
  • Frankenstein
  • Daddy Long Legs
  • I Capture the Castle

Enjoying Epistolary Novels

Reading an epistolary novel can be an entirely different experience from those written in a more "traditional" format. While you generally only see one point of view, you get a deeper and often more fulfilling look into the character's emotional and mental state. If you love to read, then try one or two epistolary novels for a change of pace!


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • SaffronBlossom profile imageAUTHOR

      SaffronBlossom 

      6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Thanks Abby! They are all good choices, I think...though I have to be in the mood for "The Color Purple," as it's not exactly a light read.

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Very interesting, Erica. Thank you for sharing this, and I'll keep some of these titles in mind. :-)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)