Epistolary fiction is basically where the story is written as a series of letters or diary entries, sometimes with other forms of media interspersed between them, like newspaper articles.
Examples of Epistolary Fiction that I’ve read include:
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- The Colour Purple by Alice Walker (click here to read my review)
- The Bridget Jones Trilogy by Helen Fielding
- We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (click here to read my review)
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I love epistolary fiction. All the nuances that ‘normal’ texts usually struggle to convey are laid out in the open in epistolary fiction; the way someone writes speaks miles about their character, the way someone describes an event speaks miles about their experience and history, the way two people write to each other speaks miles about their relationship.
I don’t particularly mind if it’s only written from one perspective (ala ‘The Colour Purple’) or from multiple viewpoints (like ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’).
I also find it easier to read as well so it’s useful for breaking out of reading slumps. Visually speaking, epistolary tend to be less intimidating since it isn’t just large chunks of text. I love reading but sometimes when I see pages and pages of description of someone’s house or garden for the sake of setting the scene, I do die a little on the inside.
Furthermore because epistolary fiction is written colloquially, the plot is easier to digest. The topic choices and phrases are exactly how we would speak to friends if we were recounting an event. No one would talk about their day at work by first setting out the atmosphere through contrasting the homeless and the bankers in the Capital City in the guise of some pseudo-political rant (unless you do have that friend, then I’m sorry).
And on a final, superficial note, epistolary fiction appeals to my nosiness since reading the letters between friends or reading someone’s diary entry is deliciously gossipy.